Yes, you read that right. No, I'm not using creative license. I made sweet potato fries, and they were legitimately crispy.
Thank you, thank you... please hold your applause.
So here's the deal. The reason sweet potato fries usually get soggy in about the time it takes you to get them on your dining table is that they have a higher moisture content than regular potatoes. So this method removes some of that moisture by boiling them in very salty water. This is when your high school chemistry class comes in handy - we're putting the potatoes in a hypertonic solution, so the water molecules want to leave the potato and go into the saltwater in the pot. Boiling them also cooks them briefly, so that when we fry them later, we can cook them to perfect crispy brownness without worrying about the doneness of the potato inside.
The upside to this is that you get delicious, crispy, golden sweet potato fries. The downside is that it's a whole lot of work, and it's also quite high in fat. But seriously - they're fries. Come on.
You vegetable purists will insist that there's a difference between sweet potatoes and yams; and you're right, they are technically different plants. But, with the varieties of each that are generally available here in the US, they are completely interchangeable in any recipe. Actually, I have a sneaking suspicion that most grocery stores are selling the very same crop as both "sweet potatoes" and "yams." So for most cooking purposes, sweet potato = yam and I don't want to hear about it.
Crispy Sweet Potato Fries
- 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes or yams
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. white sugar
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1-2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- about 1/4 c. salt for the water
- dipping sauce, like sweet-chili sauce
- Peel the sweet potatoes, and chop them into fry shapes. Go for 1/4" thickness on all sides, and cut them into manageable lengths if necessary.
- Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add about 1/4 cup of salt to the water. Taste it to make sure it's salty enough; it should taste like the ocean.
- Start heating your cooking method. I used a deep fryer; you can also use about an inch of frying oil in a good heavy-bottomed pan. If you don't want to fry, you can try baking them at a very high temperature, like 450°, instead - if you do, let me know how it works!
- Toss your fries into the boiling, salted water and cook for a few minutes, until a fork goes through them with just a little resistance. (Don't cook them so much that they get mushy.) If you have one, use a pasta strainer or even a metal mesh colander immersed in the water, and then you can just lift the fries out of the water all at once. Otherwise, you'll have to fish for 'em with a slotted spoon.
- Spread the fries out over a paper towel to cool and dry briefly.
- Mix the flour and spices together in a small bowl.
- In a different mixing bowl, toss a handful of the partially cooked fries. Only grab as many fries as will fit in whatever you're using to cook them without overcrowding: if it's a small fryer, maybe just a small handful; if it's a large pan or baking sheet, maybe all of them at once will work. Use your judgment and don't overcrowd.
- Sprinkle some of the flour-spice mixture onto the fries, enough to do just a very light coating. Again, this depends on the size of your batches, so use judgment. Toss the fries to coat evenly. The residual moisture from the fries will make the flour sort of clump up - this is a good thing.
- If you're frying the fries, shake the excess flour mixture from the batch, and then toss them in the oil. It's a good idea to have a lid available in case they hiss and sputter. Fry them until they're browned and crispy.
- Remove the fries from the oil and cool them on paper towels.
- If you're doing multiple smaller batches, repeat steps 7-10 for the remaining fries.
This makes a large plateful of fries. Serve with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce, like a Thai sweet chili sauce, or just a kicked-up ketchup.
Try to not feel too guilty as you enjoy this fabulous snack.