Mashed sweet potatoes with a little spice and zest
Who wants mashed potatoes? I can imagine hands and voices happily raised in response to that question, whether it's asked around a family table, at a casual diner, or in the finest restaurant.
My sons and I love mashed potatoes (or potato puree, as I was trained to call it during my early years as a chef). Whenever we put them on the menu in Spago or my other restaurants, the number of people who order a dish just because mashed potatoes are part of it may surprise you -- or maybe not, if you're among their legions of fans.
Mashed potatoes are one of the world's all-time great comfort foods: earthy, creamy, soothing, satisfying. They also become a sort of blank canvas for culinary artistry, welcoming all sorts of seasonings and embellishments, from garlic to chilies, broth to butter and cream, cheeses to bacon or ham -- not to mention other root vegetables to make a literal mash-up.
It's when you get into those rich additions, though, that mashed potatoes also become a guilty pleasure. Many people these days are limiting their intake of carbohydrates and others don't want to pile on fat-rich ingredients.
That's why I'd like to offer you an alternative mashed potato recipe -- my Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Orange Zest. Not only can sweet potatoes provide big flavor without added richness, but they also offer a little more dietary fiber than regular white potatoes. And they have a lower glycemic index, meaning that the body metabolizes them more slowly, helping to keep blood glucose levels lower.
The mellow sweetness of sweet potatoes also makes them ideal for your menus with autumn approaching. Not only do they bring a touch of fall color to your table, but they also go so well with all sorts of seasonal main dishes, from roast turkey or ham to pork chops or lamb. They're wonderful with beef, chicken, and fish, too. Not to mention the pleasures of including them as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal.
So, how do you maximize their flavor without adding lots of butter or cream? It's simple. I love to roast them, a process that concentrates their flavor, instead of boiling or steaming them. Doing the cooking with a little broth in a covered roasting pan helps keep them moist, providing all the liquid you'll need to bring the puree to a perfect consistency.
Of course, if you're not watching your fat intake that much, you can also stir in some butter at the last minute, suggested here as option. It's a small indulgence for a side dish that still feels wonderfully healthy.
ROASTED SPICED SWEET POTATO PUREE WITH ORANGE ZEST
Serves 4 to 6