Sweet potatoes, and I smell fall in the air.
Did I mention recently that we are in the fall season? Okay, this is Florida and seasons are not common here but you have to admit that lately the afternoon and evening breeze comes close to feeling like a change of season.
My Caribbean heritage didn’t allow me to experience seasons. After being here for almost 30 years though, I can now anticipate the wafting aromas of spices like nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. I foresee family caterings for dinner over mulled wine, fire places, fresh powdery snow, cakes and more.
I duly anticipate the sinful smells and tastes of sweet potatoes. Yes, sweet potato pie, baked sweet potatoes with molasses ginger caramel and crumbled walnuts, sweet potato pudding (Jamaica, Caribbean), baked sweet potato with marshmallows and sugar cane syrup, sweet potato bisque with chunks of crab or crawfish, sweet potato gratin with chorizo and cilantro cream and yes, coconut sweet potato flan with toasted coconut flakes. I wasn’t thinking fall when I made this dish a few year ago, but I’m thinking, Why not? I shall share this with you, I must. Yes, fall is upon us and sweet potatoes or yams will be filling our storehouses.
So sweet potato or yams: Let’s make it clear, if you don’t already know. Sweet potatoes are not yams, they are two different vegetables and not even in the same class or description. Yams are starchy tubers native to Africa, usually dark in color with very tough fibrous skin with sometimes yellow, white or purplish flesh. They can be small or even grow to feet in length.
Yams are found in the pots of most African and Caribbean homes. They are used in soups or just as sides mashed with butter or sometimes used to make porridge. Yams in all their forms are often referred to as provisions and you can find them in most
Caribbean markets that sell produce.
There are many varieties of sweet potato, but mainly two common varieties found in the states popular in the American South. There is the paler skinned variety with a yellowish toned flesh. When cooked it is softer, crumbly and not very sweet. Its darker skinned counterpart produces a deep orange flesh which is firmer, moist texture and sweeter in taste. In the Caribbean the sweet potato there (Boniato) has a purplish skin with white flesh and sweet drier texture. The latter is usually found in most Caribbean markets selling produce.
Have no fear, sweet potatoes are a perfect foil for almost any protein selection. Goodness, we already do this for most thanksgiving spreads on our plates all with the honey baked spiral sliced ham, herbed roasted turkey, port glazed goose maybe and of course if you are West Indian a nice spicy Roast beef. Salty and sweet together with heavenly spice notes are a symphony on the palette.
So with all that said, will you make something different with sweet potatoes this fall and holiday season? I think you must. I say add some mascarpone cheese to that sweet potato pie, add coconut milk to that sweet potato bisque with a hint of nutmeg, mace and spiced rum. Make it your “food on Fiyah!!!” season.
Coconut Boniato flan
w/ toasted coconut shavings
8 – 10 servings
1 ea Dried coconut, cracked and drained. Reserve the meat and water.
1 ½ cp sugar
1 ½ cp or 15 oz can of coconut milk
1 cp milk
1 cp peeled and grated Boniato
2 tspv anilla
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
1 tsp finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper
¼ cp Captain Morgan’s Spiced rum
¾ cp sugar
6 ea eggs
2 -3 cps coconut shavings
2 Tb sugar
Heat oven to 350 deg. Heat about 12 cups of water also.
Using the back of the chef knife, crack the coconut in the middle over a bowl. Strain the liquid from the coconut through a fine sieve along with a piece of cheese cloth. Reserve the liquid. Crack the shell of the coconut some more and remove the meat. Using a vegetable peeler, begin shaving the pieces of coconut on the sides. Place shavings on a half sheet pan with parchment paper and sprinkle sugar over them. Place in oven and toast until just light golden brown. Remove and cool on rack.
On medium heat in medium sauce pan, add the sugar with ¼ cp of the reserved coconut water. Cook the sugar until it is a light caramel color. Remove from heat and add about 2 table spoons of caramel in 6 ounce ramekins. Quickly twirl the ramekin around to coat the side of the ramekin a little. Easier to do one ramekin at a time so caramel doesn’t harden. If the caramel in pot hardens, reheat quickly and continue.
While caramel is cooking add the next twelve ingredients to a blender and puree for about 10 – 15 seconds. Ladle four ounces of liquid in each prepared ramekin. Set ramekins in a baking pan and pour hot water to halfway up the ramekins. Place in oven for about 50 minutes or until a pick comes out clean. Remove from oven and bath and let cool. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
To plate, run a small pairing knife around the rim of a ramekin and place a plate atop the ramekin. Invert the plate and remove the ramekin so the flan comes out. Garnish with some coconut shavings on top of flan.
Sweet potato couscous risotto
4 Tb olive oil
1 Tb butter
3 ea cloves garlic, finely diced
½ cp onions, diced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tb Fresh thyme leaves
Season with Salt & pepper
4 cp Pearl/Israeli couscous
3 cps sweet potato, medium diced
6 cps water or chicken stock
1 ½ cp coconut milk
½ cp grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
- Add oil and butter to 4 qt stock pot on medium heat.
- Add garlic, onions and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 minutes then season with cumin, ginger, thyme, salt & pepper
- Add the sweet potato and couscous and stir to get grains coated. Stir for about 2 minutes then add the liquid.
- Let liquid come to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. When liquid has reduced and almost absorbed, add the coconut milk and cheese and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes while stirring then remove from the heat. Check for seasoning.