When I was a kid, I did not like French fries. Other potatoes were ok, but I just thought fries were greasy and gross. Even ketchup couldn’t save them for me. It could have a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in Texas in the 1970s and most of the fries I ate were fast food atrocities. I like them nowadays, but I’m pretty picky when it comes to fries. Give me a pile of golden brown, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, well-seasoned fries, and I’m pretty happy. But limp, insipid, undercooked, overly thick, or thin as spaghetti fries...no thanks, not worth it! (I’d rather have a piece of pie thank you very much.)
Even though they are still called “fries,” baked sweet potato fries are in an entirely different category. More like roasted root vegetables, which I do like, and have always liked. If you bake them in a hot enough oven, follow a few simple guidelines, you will be rewarded with caramelized fries with loads of flavor.
I like these with the peel intact, but you can peel them if you don’t like it (although I urge you to try it as it becomes nice a crisp in the hot oven). Make sure to cut them somewhat evenly (thicker or thinner as you like), and spread them on a large rimmed baking sheet so that none of them are overlapping (even better if none are even touching). This might sound a bit fussy, but the reason is to keep them from steaming and becoming limp. So only put as many as will fit on a baking sheet, and if you have more, just use a second one.
You can serve these simply, on their own or toss them with a mix of spices like garlic powder, chili powder, and a little cumin or cayenne. Toss them with minced and lightly fried garlic and some finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley. Serve them with ketchup, yogurt or a garlicky aioli. They are great as a snack, and perfect as an accompaniment to a burger (try the lamb burger recipe I recently posted), grilled chicken or pork, or even a nice juicy steak.
Recipe: Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Makes 2 to 4 servings
- 1 1/2 lb orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (about 2 sweet potatoes)
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Scrub the sweet potatoes clean, then cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick planks. Cut lengthwise again into about 1/2 inch thick fries. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil then toss gently to coat. Spread the sweet potatoes out on the baking sheet in an even layer (if they overlap, they will steam and won’t come out as crisp and caramelized). If you find that there are too many overlapping on your baking sheet, transfer half to another baking sheet and use two.
- Bake, turning the sweet potatoes once or twice, until tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as soon as you take them out of the oven, and serve at once.