Kitchen Call: The roastest with the mostest
Teamwork isn’t just for sports. Apply the concept to any group of people working together toward a common goal: a school fundraiser, a dance recital, the professional kitchen.
Even a group of seemingly incompatible ingredients can produce results like a pro team, always scoring the point, if the cook coaches them properly. Hallmark autumn ingredients like sweet potatoes, maple syrup and bacon combine deliciously when treated to one a classic autumn cooking technique – roasting.
Putting a bunch of flavors together and letting the oven do the work is easy on the cook and sends the warming smells throughout the house. Roast deeply golden potatoes, then simmer and whirl into a soup seasoned with maple syrup and sprinkled with bacon. Or slice up wedges of yellow onion with pared and sliced sweet potatoes, and toss with a warm bacon-and-maple syrup dressing for a hearty autumn salad.
Anyone who loves fries might want to skip the greasy bag at the drive up window and oven-fry their own, substituting gold for the white spuds. Pair these frites with a maple-bacon dipping sauce laced with a few drops of spicy Sirarcha sauce for good measure.
On a lazy night, I roast the potato-maple-bacon trio together on a sheetpan, bringing in some tart apple wedges, like Macoun or Granny Smith, a couple of sliced fresh fennel bulbs, and a handful of torn fresh sage leaves. I toss these with melted butter, then pump up the oven heat to 425 degrees. In about 20 minutes, the edges of the vegetables begin to caramelize to a deep brown.
Then I toss them with a simple blend of maple syrup and lemon juice, adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Great with chicken or pork. I get the chicken cut into serving pieces at the supermarket meat counter. Then I roast the vegetables and the chicken each in their own pans in the same oven. I put the chicken in first, basting it with a mixture of maple syrup, lemon juice, and unsalted butter. Then the vegetables in about 30 minutes later.
I do the same with pork tenders instead of chicken. These goodies, two to a package, cook up in about 20 minutes. Like the roasted chicken pieces, I cook the vegetables beside them. Here I can put both in the oven at about the same time, and they’ll finish together. Then I can relax until dinnertime.
Real recipes follow.
ROASTED SWEET POTATO SOUP WITH MAPLE SYRUP AND BACON
2 pounds (3 to 4) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 quart low salt chicken stock
Salt, to taste
1 cup buttermilk, or milk, or half-and-half
3 to 4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
2 tablespoons real maple syrup whisked with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes; transfer to oven rack to cook until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel; chop coarsely.
Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add potatoes, chicken stock to the saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool to just above room temperature.
Puree in batches in a food processor. Rinse saucepan. Strain pureed soup through a fine mesh sieve back into saucepan. Pour in buttermilk, milk, or half-and-half, and heat gently. Stir in maple syrup mixture. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
ROASTED SWEET POTATO, BACON AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD
Makes 4 servings
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 6 wedges
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1/3 cup pure olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Salt, ground black pepper, to taste
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces fresh Boston lettuce and baby arugula
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the yellow onion, sweet potato, olive oil, fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper together and spread out in one layer. Roast about 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.
In a bowl toss together the bacon, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. Add the contents of the roasting pan and toss.
Plate lettuces on a serving platter. Top with the roasted vegetables and dressing. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over the top.
ROASTY SWEET POTATO FRIES WITH DIPPING SAUCE
Makes 4 servings
1 large sweet potato
Whites of 2 eggs
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon real maple syrup
1 to 2 strips crisply cooked crumbled bacon
A few drops Sirarcha sauce
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cut the potato into 2-inch lengths, then into 1/4-inch thin strips.
Whisk egg whites and salt together in a bowl. Toss potatoes with egg white mixture to coat. Spread in a single layer, not touching each other, on 1 or 2 baking sheets.
Roast until potatoes sizzle, about 10 minutes. With a steel spatula, loosen potatoes, and flip them over; cook about 8 minutes longer until they are tender inside and crisp outside.
Whisk together mayo, maple syrup, crumbled bacon and hot sauce. Serve fries hot from the oven with the dipping sauce.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.