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Writer Margaret Malsam Tells More About Sweet Potatoes, Featuring Our Own Chef Adam Votaw

Atwater on Gore Creek Chef Adam Votaw shared some information and a recipe, recently incorporated into an article published in Colorado Gambler

by Margaret Malsam

If you’re cooking, why not perk up your Thanksgiving meal with colorful sweet potatoes? This seasonal vegetable (always on sale during the holidays) is a traditional favorite on Thanksgiving tables. For holidays, sweet potatoes usually are blanketed with maple syrup, brown sugar, honey or marshmallows and seasoned with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Ways with sweet potatoes

There are many ways to fix sweet potatoes. In the Old South, sweet potato pie was a holiday favorite. Or you might want to try making a quick and easy entrée by baking chicken breasts with sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce (see recipe). You could make sweet potato soup and spice it up with cumin, curry or chili powder. You could even stuff ravioli with mashed sweet potatoes.

Personally, I like sweet potatoes cooked like the way my mother used for fix them. She baked and peeled the potatoes, topped them with butter, maple syrup and miniature marshmallows. Then she baked them in the oven until the marshmallows melted.

Chef Adam Votaw at the Vail Cascade Resort has developed a creative, eye-appealing way to serve twice-baked sweet potatoes in their half shells for holiday dinners at the resort’s Atwater at Gore Creek restaurant. The Atwater staff focuses on serving and procuring locally sourced produce, meats and food items from companies who utilize organic and sustainable foods.

Chef Adam's Sweet Potato Recipe:

6 sweet potatoes, about 12 ounces each
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cups mini marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a sheet of foil in the bottom.  Rub the sweet potatoes with the oil and prick each one.  Roast the potatoes directly on the oven rack for about 1 hour, until tender.  Let cool slightly.  Split each sweet potato lengthwise and carefully scrape the flesh into a large saucepan.  Transfer 12 of the potato skin halves to a baking sheet.  Using a whisk, mash and whip the sweet potatoes over moderate heat until slightly dry, about 5 minutes.  Add the butter, maple syrup and cinnamon.  Season the mixture with salt and cayenne, whisking until it is smooth and hot.  Spoon the sweet potatoes into the 12 skins. Press the mini marshmallows onto the mashed sweet potatoes. Bake the potatoes in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes around 350 degrees until heated through.  Turn on the broiler and broil for about 1 minute, until the mini marshmallows are toasted.  Note:  The filled potatoes can be covered and refrigerated overnight.  Return to room temperature and top with marshmallows just before heating.

History of sweet potato

Yam or sweet potato? Most people use these terms interchangeably both in conversation and in cooking, but they are really two different vegetables. The sweet potato is a true potato and a real ancestor of the white potato. Yams are somewhat different and grown in Africa. Blacks in the South referred to sweet potatoes as “nyamis” because of their similarity to their African cousin. Thus, the word “yams” were often used for sweet potatoes in the South.

Sweet potatoes are the root of a vine in the morning glory family. Historians believe they have been around for about 5,000 years. Columbus mistakenly thought that the sweet potatoes he brought to the New World from the island of Saint Thomas were yams, according to the Secret Life of Food book. Thus, the Caribbean sweet potato became known as a yam as it became popular and spread throughout Europe.

These yellow or orange tubers are elongated with ends that taper to a point and are of two dominant types. The paler-skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh, which is not sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker-skinned variety has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with a vivid orange, sweet flesh and a moist texture.

Sweet potatoes are more nutritious than yams, which are mostly sugar and starch. Sweet potatoes contain Vitamins A and C, plus calcium, iron and other nutrients. Sweet potatoes have a much lower glycemic index than the white potato. This means that they don’t raise blood sugar as fast and are a better choice for diabetics.