When we lived in Wisconsin, dairy was a bargain; cheese, mustard, cranberries, and honey were plentiful, and there was an enormous employee owned grocery store where food was priced so that even graduate students could eat. In our new home grocery shopping and I are not as good friends.
I have always liked the idea of buying local and seasonal produce, but now that I am out of my home climate and apples are $1.89/lb on sale in the fall, I've realized I should take an even harder look at the whole thing and make an effort to cook like a southerner....though perhaps with fewer sticks of butter.
Much to my pleasure, one of the undeniably local (and for the most part cheep) vegetables is the sweet potato. In the grocery store you will regularly see sweet potato pie, and even sweet potato ice cream, both of which I look forward to trying someday, but until then I will be largely throwing it into Mexican foods.
I do not enjoy, or really even understand, the idea of it roasted with brown sugar and marshmallows as a dinner food...perhaps serve it to me for dessert(?) I have come to love it cooked into seasoned fries, and in this sweet potato chorizo mole, which has became a favorite of ours immediately after I discovered it in the fun, environmentally conscious cookbook Almost Meatless by Joy Manning, Tara Mataraza. The recipe takes some effort, but the palate stunning results are completely worth it all.
I cannot recommend this recipe to you enough.
We have served this to large crowds, and even the people who don't like beans end up having seconds and thirds.
Somehow, I always end up cooking this meal late at night so that our dinner eating occurs after our usual bed time. I don't really recommend that method. The construction is not really all that time consuming, but tired hands don't make quick work, so since a long cooking time is required I recommend assembling everything around lunch time and putting it in the refrigerator until cooking time.
*Alternately we turn this recipe into a chili style dish by skipping the cheese, cutting the sweet potatoes into chunks and adding them to the tomato mixture instead of laying it all in a pan. Served over rice, and topped with cheese it is a much quicker version, which is almost as good, but the original is truly the best.
You can cut the sweet potatoes with a mandoline, but my knuckles and I prefer a good sharp knife.
Vegetarians should not be dissuaded by the use of chorizo sausage; like all of the recipes in Almost Meatless, the meat is for flavor more than anything else. If you omit the sausage I recommend substituting a can of roasted chipotle peppers. The cheese is tasty, but it is not in excess and also can be omitted if you wish.
Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole yield 4-6 servings
2 tsp vegetable oil (cannola is best)
4 oz chorizo sausage (or a can of roasted chipotle chili peppers)
1/2 cup small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs)
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 tsp dried
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin (fresh ground is best)
1 tsp ancho chili powder (or chipotle chili powder)
1 oz baking chocolate, chopped (or 3 Tbs cocoa and 1 Tbs oil)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn, or 1 (11 oz) can, drained
1 1/2 cups dried black beans, cooked, or 1 (15-oz) can, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup water
Kosher salt and reshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs yellow or orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices, or in disks
8 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges, for garnish
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush a 9 by 13-inch baking dish lightly with oil.
2. To prepare the tomato mixture: heat the oil in a large skillet over the medium-high
heat. Slice the surface of the sausages lengthwise to remove the meat from the casings. Crumble
the meat into the hot pan and saute for about 5 minutes, breaking it up further as it cooks and
begins to brown. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook
for 30 seconds more. Pour the reserved tomato juices into the pan to deglaze, scrapeing the bits
from the bottom. Add the chopped tomatoes, cumin, chile powder, and chocolate. Stir to combine
while the chocolate melts. Add the corn and black beans, reduce the heat to medium, and allow
the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the water. Taste for seasoning and add salt
and pepper if necesary.
3. Meanwhile, to assemble and cook: spread one-third of the sweet potatoes on the
bottom of the prepared baking dish, overlapping the slices. Scoop half of the tomato mixture (a
heaping cup) and spread evenly across the first layer of potatoes. Top with one-third of the
shredded cheese. Repeat this layering process, ending with a layer of potatoes. Reserve the last
third of the cheese. Once assembled, cover with foil, pushing it onto the surface of the top layer,
and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until potatoes for fork tender (yellow sweet potatoes tend to take
longer). Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining third of the cheese atop the potatoes. Bake
for an additional 10 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the layers to set
up. Cut and serve with avocado and lime wedges. Garnish with cilantro as desired.
Layer three. I ran just a little short on sweet potatoes on this one.
Notice the late night lighting on this one....
Do you have any secret sweet potato recipes up your sleeve?