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July 3, 2007 / Tony

Smoky mashed sweet potatoes

One ingredient that I think is underused in American kitchens is the sweet potato.  According to Wikipedia, the average comsumption in the U.S. is only 4 pounds per year (in 1920, the average comsumption was 31 pounds per year).  That is really shame since sweet potatoes are delicious, nutritous, and fairly easy to prepare.  Of course, they are a natural with other sweet ingredients like brown sugar and marshmallows but they have a number of savory uses as well like sweet potato chips.  One note:  although Americans throw around the terms yam and sweet potato interchangeably, they are actually distinct products.  The sweet potato is native to North America while the yam is native to Africa and Asia.  They are both tubers but are distinct in their skin and flesh. 

Here’s a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes:

Smoky Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes

Vegetable oil

5 T butter

1 T brown sugar, or to taste

Kosher salt

Prepare a charcoal grill using plenty of coals, creating an even layer of coals in the bottom of the grill.  Leave the grate off the grill for this recipe.  Lightly rub the sweet potatoes with the vegetable oil and place directly (this is correct, trust me) on the coals.  Cover the grill and let the sweet potatoes cook until tender all the way through.  This should take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the heat of your fire and the size of your sweet potatoes.  Once done, remove the sweet potatoes from the coals (be careful, they are hot!) and let them rest until they can be handled safely.  Then, peel off the skin, being careful to keep the skin separate from the flesh.  Place the flesh in a mixing bowl and discard the skins.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix.  Beat until the sweet potatoes are smooth.  Taste and adjust any seasonings.  Enjoy!

Note:  These potatoes can be prepared either on a gas grill or in the oven.  For gas grill cooking, keep the heat low and slowly roast the sweet potatoes until tender.  For oven cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and roast the sweet potatoes (don’t forget to lightly coat them in oil) until done.  This should take about an hour.  Proceed as directed above. 

A few miscellaneous notes on this recipe.  Using good-sized sweet potatoes is a really good idea in this recipe.  It just makes the peeling process easier and much faster.  When beating the sweet potatoes, you can use a hand-held mixer or the whisk attachment to your stand mixer or by hand.  Try to work it aggressively so the end product isn’t lumpy. 

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