I've never seen sweet potatoes in Paris and when I spotted them today in the Monoprix (French Safeway) there were only two looking forlorn in a basket all by themselves. I had to save them. They're probably not in season. I don't even know if sweet potatoes have a season! I always see them year round back home – that's not saying much though is it?
I hold patate douce dear to my heart...
Ten years ago when I cooked in SF I used to take the last night train home after dinner service. We always got a free meal with our shift and I would package mine togo and trade the ticket lady, a Southern woman, my dinner for a free ride home. It was a good deal for both of us. The food was hot and delicious and I was poor. One ticket home was the equivalent to one hour's worth of work in those days. (Eeeek! That was a long time ago!!!)
There were always weirdos on the last train out of SF. Lots of drunks and druggies. I learned all the Caltrans code words for 'drunk' or 'jerk' as the conducters would radio back and forth to each other about the passangers. But sometimes, the ticket lady, needing a respite from all the chaos, would sit beside me, eat her free meal, and talk food. She was a soul food specialist and she luuuuuved sweet potatoes like no one I have ever met before. And although she had no desire to go back to the South, I still think she might be persuaded if some one offered a life long supply of sweet potatoes.
Sweet potato pie was her specialty and I still have her recipe – and no, you can't have it – I promised I wouldn't share it with anyone. But she also sang the virtues of sweet potato hash, sweet potatoes mashed, candied sweet potatoes (and yams too), and sweet potato chips. She even liked sweet potato raw. And so do I, but I don't know if you're supposed to eat it that way.
I can't eat a sweet potato today without thinking of her. I'm sure we'll both meet again some day in that sweet potato pie up in the sky. But for now, I'll leave you with a recipe for lightly spiced pork chops served up with some orange-ginger sweet potato hash in her honor.
Côtelettes de Porc aux épices, Gratin de Patate Douce à l'Orange et au Gingembre
4 thin pork chops about 1/2" thick
1 sweet potato diced
1 small yellow onion diced
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger grated or minced
Juice & zest of one orange
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 bunch chives finely chopped
1 cups pork stock, chicken stock, vegetable stock, or veal stock
1 tablespoon butter
1. Dice sweet potato and yellow onion. Mince ginger. Zest orange and mince half of zest to add to sweet potatoes and half for decoration at the end.
2. Place a non-skillet onto high heat with 2-3 T of olive oil. When it's hot add sweet potatoes, onions, and ginger. Lightly brown and turn down heat to medium. When sweet potatoes are cooked but not mushy, deglaze pan by squeezing one half of orange over it. It will bubble and evaporate. Sprinkle brown sugar over and add 1/4 cup of stock. Let cook down. Stir often. Turn down heat to low while cooking pork chops and add more orange juice if you like the flavor.
3. Sprinkle lightly over both sides of pork chops: cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Heat 1-2 T of olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. When pan is hot add pork chops. Brown on both sides until cooked through (about 3 minutes each side). Remove pork chops and let rest. Deglaze pan while it is still hot with remaining stock on high heat. Let reduce by one half.
4. Flash cook sweet potatoes on high heat with a tablespoon of butter to glaze and add chopped chives and minced orange zest.
5. Serve pork chops slightly placed on top of sweet potatoes with a few sprigs of orange zest and jus all around.