The sweet potato is actually no potato at all. Interestingly it’s part of the morning glory family and not the night shade family. Some even like to call it a yam but this too is incorrect. The yam is actually part of the lily family. With all this confusion it’s no surprise that it can be a struggle to cook.
When I treat it like a potato I get poor results as it does not have the some moisture and starch that a potato does. The texture is also wrong in trying to treat it like a potato because it’s much smoother and silkier when cook through. It wants to break down and not hold it’s shape.
Although most people add to the natural sweetness of the sweet potato with sugar, molasses, maple syrup, marshmallows, and so on I think this is going in the wrong direction. It has no balance. I think these traditional flavors can have a better place in making it a dessert rather than a side dish to an already heavy meal.
When I cooked the sweet potatoes for my first thanksgiving with my husband I did a gratin that was with both Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes. It called for a couple types of strong cheeses and heavy cream. This too just made for an over powering and have dish. It didn’t have the characteristics of a vegetable or a side dish to support the harmony of the meal.
Last year I came across a recipe from Bon Appetite for Sweet Potato with Stilton and Walnuts. I made it for my husband and he really enjoyed it. This year I made it again and it was lacking. I am not sure what I did different or wrong but I think that the dish is complicated.
The idea is good. It’s a shallot vinaigrette on roasted sweet potatoes and then topped with crunchy candied walnuts, fried sage leaves, and stilton blue cheese. This offers something to cut through the sweetness, something to add texture, and other strong flavors to try to add some sort of balance. The issue is for this to work that means the diner needs to get all of these flavors in each bite. When you scatter everything on a platter it’s her for them to get it all in every fork full.
I think there is a lot of promise in this dish but it’s one that next year I need to give more thought to and probably play with how it’s cooked and served to be made into a better eating experience.