• 3-5 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes/yams (more or less depending on size, number of people you want to feed etc.)
• Oil to coat the potatoes
• Kosher salt to taste
Preheat your oven to 500. A high temperature is important to get the edges of the fries crisp and caramelized before the whole mess turns to sweet potato puree.
Scrub the potatoes well, leaving the skins on (it’s the best part!). Cut each potato into ½ inch slices, lengthwise, and then cut the slices into fry-shaped sticks (julienne). Depending on the size of your potatoes, adjust the length of the fries – if they are too long, they will just fall apart when you try to turn them over in the oven.
Put all the fries into a plastic bag, drizzle well with oil (I use olive, because that is what I have on-hand), sprinkle with kosher salt, twist the bag up and shake to coat all the fries. Dump the fries out onto 1 or 2 cookie sheets. You want a single layer, no overlapping, so that each fry can get crisp. I put a silpat liner (silicone baking mat, non-stick surface) down on my pans – I don’t know how people live without them – it just makes everything easier. If you don’t have a silpat or a non-stick cookie sheet, be sure to use plenty of oil, otherwise you’ll have a mess and a hard time turning the fries.
Pop the sheet/s into the hot oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may need more time before you can turn the fries. The key point is that the fries must begin to brown before you try to turn them. If they’re not browned, you’ll just mash them up trying to turn them. If you have 2 sheets of fries going, you may want to switch the pan positions at this point. Once the fries have some good brown color on them, take them out and turn the batch over with a spatula. Pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes to brown the other side. Don’t be worried about dark, even black, spots on some of the fries…..I promise they will still taste good.
When all the fries are browned all over, you are ready to go…..taste a few to see if you want to add more salt or a sprinkle of pepper. If you want to serve them plain, without a dipping sauce, you could add some spices to the bag of raw potatoes and oil at the start – try curry powder (Thai or Indian), garam masala, cinnamon and nutmeg, cayenne….etc.
I usually make a dipping sauce to go along with these (a friend once dubbed it “crack sauce” because it is so addictive….not exactly PC, but you get the idea – it’s really good!).
Here are a few variations:
All start with a base of plain yogurt, mayo, sour cream, or some combination of them. I like yogurt with just a little mayo for richness, and that is usually what I have in my fridge.
The other components are herbs, spices, and acids.
For herbs, try chives, basil, mint, cilantro.
For spices, try Cajun seasoning, curry powder, minced garlic, chile sauce (sambaal or sriracha or frank’s red hot), dry mustard, celery salt, chile powder, cumin.
For acids, try lemon or lime juice, red wine vinegar, or a good dose of a vinegar based hot sauce – like frank’s.
Be sure to add enough salt and pepper to taste; it often takes me several tries to add enough salt to bring out the other flavors I’ve added. Just keep adding herbs, spices and acids until the mixture tastes good. Be sure to use a fry as a dipper so you can see how the sauce tastes with the sweetness of the potato.
I’ve also made a teriyaki aioli, using homemade teri sauce (soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, hot pepper, green onion) and whisking that into mayo with some toasted sesame oil. You could also serve them with a basic honey-mustard, bbq sauce, hoisin sauce, or other prepared sauce, or mix a prepared sauce into your mayo/yogurt/sour cream base. Enjoy!