A yam is always a sweet potato but a sweet potato is not always a yam. Most people use these two words interchangeably (I know that I do), but for all of you agricultural sticklers out there, I am going to try to do my part to help educate. When orange flesh sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern United States, producers wanted to distinguish them from the more common white flesh types. They borrowed from the African word nyami, referring to starchy root vegetables and adopted it in its English form, yam. And there you have the lesson for the day! I'll bet you feel smarter already and I'm glad that I could help.
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods. I like to eat them year round, usually just baked with a little bit of butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. There are so many different ways that they can be prepared that I like to try something different each Thanksgiving. This recipe is one of my favorites (so far....). I like how the use of the tart cranberries serves as a contrast to the sweet cider syrup. The combination of the green onions, the red cranberries, and the orange sweet potatoes makes a colorful addition to a holiday table (much prettier than a mound of semi-charred marshmallow topping). Best of all, the entire recipe is cooked on top of the stove, freeing up some very precious oven space! Here are my notes for the sweet potatoes:
- The potatoes are halfway cooked , as directed, when a knife inserted into the center encounters considerable resistance. Do not overboil the potatoes or the dish will have a mushy texture.
- If you don't have allspice, you can substitute a small amount (1/4 teaspoon) or nutmeg or ginger instead.
- The potatoes can be boiled and drained one day ahead of time. Cool them and then cover and refrigerate.
- When storing whole sweet potatoes, prior to peeling, do not refrigerate them. Because they are a "tropical" vegetable, temperatures below 55 degrees will cause them to be tougher and will compromise the flavor.
Cider-Glazed Sweet Potatoes
3 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups apple cider or apple juice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
Cook sweet potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until halfway cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool.
Combine cider, sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Add sweet potatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add cranberries and continue cooking until the liquid id reduced to a syrupy glaze and the sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Season is with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with green onions.