I grew up eating sweet potatoes way more often than I’d say 99% of the population. My mom roasted them in their jackets nearly every day and just left them sitting in the turned-off oven till someone plucked one up, peeled it and ate its sweet, orange flesh. Mom served them warm, cold, candied and mashed, but we never ever ever ate the skin. We ate the skin of Idaho and red potatoes, savored it even as the most nutritious part of the spud, but for whatever reason we deemed sweet potato skin different.
Now in my PBS appointed role as flag-flier for Southern ingredients, I’m making a case for the pleasure and versatility of sweet potato skin. Specifically, I like to roast sweet potatoes whole, just like my mom. Then I cut them in half and scoop out all but a thin scattering of the flesh. Crisped up in a pan with some oil and finished with a Vivian-sized pinch of salt, these halves can be treated like taco shells on B-vitamins. Cut into wedges or strips or whatever you want and crisped up the same way, they make crunchy croutons that are the perfect counterpoint to a spicy arugula salad.
Roasted sweet potatoes, flesh scooped out and reserved for another use
½ cup maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
¼ cup cider vinegar
Pinch chili flakes
Mature, spicy arugula
A salty hard cheese like Parmigianno Reggiano, Pecorino Romano or Ricotta Salata
Tasty olive oil
Cut your sweet potato skins into strips or wedges. Add enough oil to a saute pan so that it climbs about a third of an inch up the pan’s sides. Heat the oil over medium heat and brown the skins on both sides. Some parts of the skin will be browner than others. Often I end up with pieces that look burnt, but coupled with the less browned pieces, they make a fine, crunchy foil for one another. Drain the skins on paper towels and season them liberally with kosher salt.
Meanwhile in a small sauce or saute pan simmer together the maple syrup, coriander seeds, vinegar and chili flakes till it reduces every so slightly.
Toss your arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and lots of shaved cheese together in a bowl. Put it on a plate with as many skins as you like. Drizzle the whole thing with the maple reduction, and go to town on your healthy-ish masterpiece.
Photos by Baxter Miller.