Monday, November 26, 2012

UnRecipe: ERMAHGURRRRD - French Fries!!

Happy Meatless Monday, which I would consider it the Post-Thanksgiving/Meat Hangover, given our glutton-filled weekend of turkey-turkey-everything. So to cleanse our roadblocked intestines and overworked filter organs, how about something simple with delightful sweet potatoes? Oh, who am I kidding -- it's the holidays, and the checkered flag was waved as of Thanksgiving, so it's time to Unleash the Kraken for rich, delicious food that we'll have all of 2013 to regret stuffing our faces with.

Sweet Potato Buffalo Fries... because, yeah, that's a thing - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I'll be the first to admit that I make unreasonable bargains with myself when it comes to food. I'll say "no" to Yukon gold potatoes because they're so starchy, and "yes" to sweet potatoes and yams because they have more nutrients and a little lower starch content... and then douse those slightly more nutritious sweet potatoes and yams with sauces, cheese and whatever else that negates that little extra bit of health they offered. I've never made myself out to be a Health Saint, that's for sure, but when I crave French fries -- which is fairly often -- I'll do what I can to try and squeeze out whatever little bit of nutritional value I can. Enter: Buffalo Wing Yam Fries.

Thanksgiving sort of ruined yams, in my opinion. How they got to become synonymous with being in a casserole dish, covered with marshmallows is beyond me. I blame the South, the Midwest, and the Flyover States in general for ruining a perfectly delicious spud, giving it the false beard of "appetizer" when it's really some unholy dessert in that terrible guise. So I thought I'd ruin yams in my own, special Wasabi-way, dousing it in Frank's Hot Sauce and sprinkled with crumbles of blue cheese. Totally unrelated to Thanksgiving, I just really wanted Buffalo Wings. Which, really, who doesn't? I also thought this would be a great Meatless Monday/Junk Food Binge meal. Who says vegetarianism doesn't have a naughty side? Nothing with a face went into this heaping pile of indulgence, so let this spicy, cheesy flavor-fest rock your vegetarian socks off.

Cheesy spicy potato goodness - Photos by Wasabi Prime
If you decide to make this beast of a meatless feast, take some yams -- peeled or unpeeled, the skins are fine if you leave them on -- and cut into fry-shaped wedges. Yams really are the best for this because of their intense bright orange color -- it really plays into the Buffalo Wings theme, and as they say, we eat with our eyes first. Toss with vegetable oil and some salt and pepper, and spread out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, to keep them from sticking. Put the tray in a preheated 420-degree oven. High heat is good, it will roast the potatoes, pull out all that moisture, and help dry them out a bit. You can fry them, this would make them true fries, but deep frying is a pain in the rear, and this works in a pinch. I usually run the tray under the broiler for a minute or two, just to give it a little crisp, but they'll burn fast, so keep an eye on them. While they're still hot, toss the yams with your favorite hot sauce (Frank's is my favorite), and then sprinkle crumbles of blue cheese over it before eating with abandon. Baked fries aren't as crisp as deep-fried ones, but once they've got sauce and cheese on them, you'll eat them with a fork, so that's why I feel the baked vs deep-fried option is negligible.

My second Fry Binge was with sweet potatoes. I told you, I crave French fries A LOT, so I like having some options to make those unreasonable food bargains with myself to pretend the food isn't as rich and naughty as it truly is. This fry-binge was inspired by that fabulous creation from Canada, poutine. If you've never had poutine, it's Mana from Heaven -- crispy fries doused with gravy and topped with squeaky cheese curds. I don't know the backstory over how poutine was invented. I'm guessing it was probably the result of a very drunk beer-soaked night, but much like our own US-equivalent of pile o' drunk food -- nachos -- it's a cure for what ails when there's too many ales. This version is meatless -- no gravy -- just a basic bechamel sauce. I added spice by seasoning the sweet potatoes with a mix of extra pepper and cayenne before they were baked. While the spiced sweet potato fries are roasting in the oven -- same temperature as the yam fries -- I use the stovetop to make the bechamel, which just a basic white sauce that I add a mixture of cheeses to towards the end. I added white cheddar and parmesan, but you can add whatever cheeses you like.

How sweet it is - sweet potato fries with cheese sauce - Photo by Wasabi Prime
This of course results in yet another messy pile o' gooey food, but who cares, as it was delicious. Cheesy, spicy sweet potato goodness. The nice thing about sweet potatoes and yams is that they have a noticeable and distinctive flavor -- they're not neutral like a typical plain potato. The natural sweetness takes the addition of spice really nicely, the richness of a sauce and strong cheese doesn't drown out the potato. For the cheesy sweet potato fries, adding a healthy sprinkle of paprika before serving helps keep it from being pale, white food, and it reminds your eyes that you're eating something with a little kick.

So let the celebration of the holidays begin -- we can happily swaddle ourselves in heavy winter coats and Snuggies as we dig into all our favorite foods. At least until January first comes around and we can make all those pesky resolutions to eat carrot sticks for every meal.

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