Like many food lovers, visits to Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen typically end with my attempts to mentally deconstruct my latest menu favorite. Wishful plans to recreate it at home assume that guesswork will be on the ingredient list. But, in the case of the restaurant’s now famous Squash on Toast, the New York Times made my day and published the recipe, inspiring this unique sweet potato mash recipe.
I adapted the Squash on Toast recipe, borrowing the flavor profile, but made it gluten and dairy-free, foregoing the crostini and cheese. Keeping the mint was non-negotiable as the dish is just not the same without it. Finally, I substituted sweet potatoes for the squash because I’m always looking for an excuse to more sweet potatoes.
Grocery stores often label wweet potatoes as yams. However, true yams are rarely found outside of international markets. So, if you’ve been confused by this, you are not alone. While any variety of sweet potato can be used in most recipes, I recommend the orange-fleshed varieties, such as Beuregarde, California Gold, Carolina Ruby, Covington, Evangeline and Gold Nugget. Yet, these may also be referred to (incorrectly) as Jewel or Garnet yams. Yes, it is needlessly confusing.
Many people shy away from sweet potatoes beyond Thanksgiving, assuming these are just a pretty starch bomb. However, sweet potatoes are a medium, rather than a high glycemic index food and may potentially improve blood sugar regulation—even in persons with type 2 diabetes. Recent research has shown that extracts from sweet potatoes can significantly increase blood levels of adiponectin. Adiponectin, a protein hormone secreted by our fat cells, regulates the metabolism of lipids and glucose and favorably influences the body’s insulin response.
The orange of sweet potato flesh brings not only festive color to meals, but also a high-level of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Not only are these tubers exceedingly rich in beta-carotene, high in fiber and potassium, they are also an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, copper and pantothenic acid.
This recipe comes together easily last-minute if the carmelized onions are made in advance. While only 1/2 of cup carmelized onions are needed, I recommend making extra. For the time it takes to carmelize onions, it doesn’t make sense to carmelize one onion at a time. Use the leftovers to dress up appetizers, frittatas, quiches, sandwiches or pizzas. Caramelized onions can be kept refrigerated for around a week or frozen for up to three months. Here, I froze 1/2 cup servings in a glass container with the ‘patties’ separated by parchment paper.
SWEET POTATO MASH WITH MAPLE CARMELIZED ONIONS AND MINT
- Parchment paper
- Baking sheet
- Wooden spoon
- Stainless steel or cast-iron pan
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 3 yellow onions, cut into half, then 1/4 inch slices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter (or combination) for carmelizing onions
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS – CARMELIZED ONIONS:
- Place skillet over medium heat, then add the olive oil and/or butter.
- Add the onions to the pan, salt lightly and stir, coating evenly with the olive oil or butter.
- Stir the onions every 5 to 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan.
- After about 45 minutes, the onions should be translucent, very soft and start to appear and taste caramelized.
- When they onions have reached the desired level of carmelization, mix the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup with the water.
- Pour the liquid over the onions and deglaze the pan. As the liquid bubbles, scrape up the fond, the jammy, brown substance on the bottom, and stir it into the onions.
- Continue to cook the onions, stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated.
- If you’re not using the onions immediately, let them cool in the pan, then transfer them to a storage container.
DIRECTIONS – SWEET POTATO MASH:
- Preheat oven to 375º degrees.
- Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until soft, about one hour.
- Remove the potatoes from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.
- Split the potatoes and remove the flesh to a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the coconut oil and 1/2 cup of the carmelized onions to the potato flesh and combine, mashing any large chunks of potato with a fork. Don’t get too fussy. This is a mash, not a purée.
- Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
- Top each serving with a generous sprinkling of the chopped mint.
- Low JW, Arimond M, Osman N et al. A food-based approach introducing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes increased vitamin A intake and serum retinol concentrations in young children in rural Mozambique. J Nutr. 2007 May;137(5):1320-7. 2007.
- Ludvik B, Hanefeld M, and Pacini G. Improved metabolic control by Ipomoea batatas (Caiapo) is associated with increased adiponectin and decreased fibrinogen levels in type 2 diabetic subjects. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2008 Jul;10(7):586-92. Epub 2007 Jul 21.