Have you ever had a conversation with one of your great friends that left you completely rejuvenated, and looking at life in a different light?
That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago, when good friends came over to spend the weekend with us. It’s an amazing thing when foodies get together – you can’t shut them up when you start talking about food! So, as we were relaxing in the spa after a hike up the “M” Trail, she told me about this jem of a dish that she makes on a regular basis. She described it so enthusiastically, that I just had to try it. Once I tried it, I HAD to share it with you, it is so damn good. Melissa is a master at umami – this Sweet Potato Bake has it all. Sweet, savory, spicy, herby, crunchy… It’s freakin’ amazeballs.
First it starts out with sweet potatoes – an arguably under-used root veg – at least in this house. Then a few red potatoes are thrown in to make sure you acknowledge that this is indeed, a savory dish. Diced onions and whole garlic cloves are mixed in, as well as one whole habañero sliced as thin as you can. I was a bit frightened of this at first, but trust me – your taste buds will be OKAY. All this is tossed with olive oil, and thrown in a shallow baking dish. I used a 9″x13″ glass cake pan. Then, julienne the fennel bulb. Cut it into quarters, cut out the tough core, then get to town!
Now, we’ve got our fennel, and we sprinkle it all over the potato/onion mixture. Then we sprinkle the brown sugar. Then, even more sprinkling with the balsamic vinegar. Cut up some tiny pats of butter, and distribute evenly over the casserole, and we’re ready to put this puppy in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about an hour, until the veggies are fork tender. At the halfway mark (about minute 20-30), toss the pecans over the top of the veggies. I do this halfway through just so they don’t burn. We just want a good toast on those guys.
The sweet potato goes perfectly with the more savory red potatoes. You get this perfect spice from the habañero that is not over-powering at all, but you can also tell he was definitely invited to this party. The fennel lends it’s unique licorice flavor, and the brown sugar and balsamic enhance the sweetness of everything. The pecans give you not only crunch but this beautiful toastiness. Holy hell, batman. THIS is living. Melissa also suggests pairing this with an over-easy egg on top for a breakfast dish that will knock your socks off.
I absolutely LOVE conversations like this. Sharing food and recipes, the stories that go along with them, and the stories that are born with them nourish my soul. It’s one of my favorite things in life EVER. Every time I make this dish, I will think of my homies, Melissa & Rich. I loved it so much, I am sharing it with you! I will no doubt share and make this for other friends and family in the future. This is what traditions (Thanksgiving?!) are born of and what good times are made of. So, cheers, y’all!! You might want to make two batches of this. It goes down WAAAAY easy.
What are some of your absolute must share recipes?
- 4 Cups Sweet Potato, peeled & cut into bite-sized pieces (about 4 small sweet-potatoes)
- 2 Cups Red Potatoes, not peeled & cut into bite-sized pieces (about 8 baby red potatoes)
- 1 Onion, Diced Large
- 8 Whole Cloves Garlic
- 1 Habañero, sliced very fine
- 1 Fennel Bulb, julienned
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a large glass baking dish, toss together, in the olive oil, both potatoes, onion, garlic & habañero.
- Sprinkle the fennel over the mixture, followed by the brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar.
- Dot the top of the mixture with the butter.
- Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, toss, and add the pecans on top.
- Cook for 20-30 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are fork tender.
- Top with fennel fronds, and serve!