Vail Daily column: Sweet on sweet potatoes |

Vail Daily column: Sweet on sweet potatoes

Sue Barham
Simply Seasonal
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

They come in many shapes and sizes – long and thin with tapered ends or round and knobby. The flesh ranges from white to yellow to rich orange. From the 400 varieties of sweet potatoes, you can find your favorites throughout the year as this tuber has a long shelf life.

Despite its name, the sweet potato is not related to the potato. And though sweet potatoes and yams have similar flavors and are in the same family, they are actually separate veggies. A true yam is a root that weighs over 100 pounds. Sweet potatoes have two main varieties: The orange-fleshed variety (often referred to as yams) is the most common, and is moist and sweet. The yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes are drier and tend to be more starchy.

For the most nutritional value, choose the sweet potatoes with a deep orange color. They are packed with beta carotene (vitamin A) as well as vitamin C. Anti-oxidant rich, sweet potatoes build your immune system. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium and iron.

Avondale Sous Chef K Singhaninh creates a rich and satisfying fall side dish with sweet potatoes and blue cheese. “Using a combination of Idaho potatoes and sweet potatoes will keep the flavor savory, not too sweet,” he said. “Make sure you slice the sweet potatoes just a little thicker than the russets as they will cook faster.”

This recipe is easy to make and a fragrant accompaniment to roast beef or pork.

Blue cheese sweet potato gratin

1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch)

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch)

1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for the casserole

5 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, or chives, for garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the sliced potatoes in a bowl with cold water to cover. Leave for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove from the cloudy water, and dry with a clean towel. Discard water and rinse bowl. Add heavy cream and garlic to the bowl. After potatoes are dry, add them to the bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix together making sure the garlic is evenly distributed. Butter the bottom and sides of a baking casserole, about 3 1/2 inches deep, and large enough to fit all the potatoes (you could also use smaller casserole dishes, if you plan on serving them individually). Using a colander, strain the potato mixture and reserve cream. Make a layer of potatoes, dot with butter pieces, drizzle with a few spoonfuls of cream, a little crumble of blue cheese, then repeat in this fashion until all the potatoes have been used. End the top with a dabbing of butter, the last slosh of cream, and blue cheese.

Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the potatoes are very tender and have absorbed all the cream; the top of the potatoes should be golden brown.

Serve in the casserole, or dish up individual portions, sprinkling with a little fresh chopped parsley or chives. Serves four to six.

Sweet potato corn chowder

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cups fresh corn kernels

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon sugar

4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock

1/4 cup cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Minced roasted red pepper for garnish

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Sweat sweet potatoes, carrot, celery, garlic, shallots, onion, sugar and thyme in butter till fragrant. Add stock and enough additional water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add cream. Simmer 10 minutes, remove from heat and remove thyme sprigs. Puree half the soup in blender and return to pot, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with red pepper and cilantro. Serves 4.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, ( at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, ( opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.

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