I am so fortunate to have a great group of Girlfriends. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. My Girlfriends are the greatest. Those Ladies ROCK! We try to get together for a Girl’s Night Out as often as possible, but with family schedules, that usually works out to about once every month or two. When we get together, you can be absolutely sure of three things:
- No topic of conversation is off limits.
- Hilarity (and possibly mayhem) will ensue.
- Food will be involved. Good food.
Summers here on the 45th parallel are gorgeous, and busy with guests, vacations, and festivals. We don’t get together as often as we would like to during the summer, so come fall, we are collectively ready for a night on the town. Also in the fall, a local brew-pub happens to serve the best sweet potato fries on the planet. They are every thing a good sweet potato fry should be–slightly spicy, and very, very crispy. We collectively inhale them like oxygen. Unfortunately, we never know for sure when the said brew-pub will be serving the much coveted sweet potato fries, as it seems to be a heavily guarded secret.
Fact: Last year we went to this establishment for a GNO, our server informed us that she was “pretty sure that they were out of sweet potato fries for the night.” While she was checking the status of our fries in the kitchen, we considered mutiny going to another restaurant based solely on principal. Luckily, they had enough sweet potato fries left to fill our orders, so we decided to forgo our plans of mutiny.
Of course the fries in question are gloriously deep fried, making them nearly impossible to replicate at home. I don’t think I’m alone in finding it easier to eat fried food that someone else prepares rather than frying it myself. Less guilt and grease spatters all around. However, oven baked sweet potato fries tend to turn out mushy, and not nearly as flavorful as the restaurant variety. So what’s a girl to do when a sweet potato fry craving hits home? Why head on over to Tasty Kitchen, and see if any other home cooks have solved these problems.
Naturally, someone did. Jessica Aten of FabFitMommy posted a recipe for spicy sweet potato fries that I simply had to try. They were so good! But the original recipe was way too spicy for anyone else in my family to eat. I hate it when that happens. However, the dry spice combination was intriguing enough for me to try again. After a few batches, I was able to modify the recipe so that everyone in my family not only eats them, but requests that I make them.
If you have ever cooked for children, then you know what high praise it is when the kiddos request something other than tacos and spaghetti.
We’ll just keep the fact that these particular fries are better for them than the deep fried restaurant variety our little secret, okay?
Here’s the goods: a few sweet potatoes, kosher salt, black pepper, ground cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, and cornstarch. Yes, cornstarch! You’ll see why later…
Preheat the oven to 425º F.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a gallon sized zippered storage bag. Seal the bag and give it a good shake to mix the seasonings.
Give the sweet potatoes a good scrub under warm water before you peel them. After peeling, cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick fries.
Toss the fries into the seasonings, seal the bag, and give it a good shake to coat them. Let the fries hang out for a few minutes in the bag so that they can get to know the seasonings a bit better. This is where the addition of cornstarch starts to make sense. See, by letting the fries rest in the seasonings, it gives the potatoes time to “sweat” out a little moisture. That moisture binds with the cornstarch to help the seasonings better adhere to the fries.
While the fries are getting chummy with the seasonings, grab a couple of baking sheets, and, if you have it, some non-stick aluminum foil. If you don’t have any non-stick aluminum foil, then go get some. Immediately. Non-stick foil is the best thing to happen to oven roasted veggies since olive oil.
Seriously though, you can use standard foil, but you’ll have to tend to the fries a little more carefully to keep them from sticking.
Arrange the seasoned fries on the prepared baking sheets. Here’s the trick to getting crispy oven fries vs. soft roasted potatoes: don’t crowd the potatoes on the baking sheet! Make sure that the fries have at least 1/4 inch of space all around them, and that they are not touching any other potatoes. The sweet potatoes will let off steam as they bake. If the potatoes are too close together, the steam from one potato will keep the neighboring potatoes too moist to crisp. Too much olive oil will also inhibit the crisp-factor.
If you are using non-stick foil, bake the sweet potato fries for about 15 minutes, then flip them over with a spatula. These fries have just been flipped. (By the way–if you are not using non-stick foil, you will have to turn the fries every 5 minutes or so to keep them from sticking to the pan. Baking time will need to be adjusted accordingly.)
You’ll notice that the fries are both crowded and touching, which will make for soggy fries. Don’t settle for soggy fries. Be sure to spread them back out again after turning them over. Continue to bake the fries for another 10 minutes, or until they are deep brown and crisp around the edges.
Once the fries are good and crispy, serve them immediately. You don’t have to get fancy–just toss them on a platter and set them in front of a hungry group of Girlfriends. The fries will be gone in no time, flat! Heck, if you want to be really casual about it, you don’t even have to put serving plates on the table. I’ll never tell.
But if serving sweet potato fries alone is against your entertaining sensibilities, then serve ’em up next to some Sweet and Smokey Baby Back Ribs. You’ll be glad that you did.
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
(Adapted from a recipe by Jessica Aten of http://www.fabfitmommy.com/)
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 Tbs. cornstarch
2 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
¼ tsp. chipotle chili powder (or to taste)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbs. olive oil
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with non-stick aluminum foil; set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Dump the cornstarch, salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic powder into a gallon sized zippered storage bag. Seal the bag, and shake the spices to mix; set aside.
- Scrub and peel the sweet potatoes. Slice the potatoes into ¼ inch wide by 3 inch long sticks, or “fries.”
- Place the cut fries into the seasoning bag. Seal the bag, and shake vigorously to coat. Let fries rest in the seasoning bag for 2-3 minutes, and then give them another good shake. Allowing the potatoes to rest for a few minutes will give them time to “sweat” out some moisture, which will better help the seasonings adhere to the fries.
- Arrange the fries in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheets. Be sure that the fries are at least ¼ inch away from each other on all sides so that they have room to crisp up in the oven. Crowding the fries or allowing them to touch will result in soft/mushy fries.
- Drizzle 1 Tbs. of olive oil over each sheet pan of fries, 2Tbs. total, and toss the fries with your hands to coat.
- Bake for 15 minutes in the 425 degree oven, and then flip the fries with a spatula to turn them over. Be sure that the fries are still not touching or crowded after flipping. Continue baking for about 10 minutes, or until fries are golden brown and become slightly crispy.
- Serve immediately.