Sweet Potatoes "Tata" with Honey and Thyme
Adapted from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way (Artisan, 2009)
"Everybody has a favorite recipe from Grandma. For me, it’s the fried sweet potatoes made by my Tata, Mercedes Sanchez Ponce de Leon. This recipe differs from hers somewhat in technique because I smash the potatoes to get more crust, but it grew out of sweet childhood memories—the sweetness of both the potatoes and Tata. These are great with roast pork." –Francis Mallman
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Coarse salt
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs
- 6 tablespoons clarified butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, add the red wine vinegar, olive oil, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt to taste and cold water to cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a skewer. Drain in a colander; do not allow them to cool, or they will break instead of smash.
Put one potato on a clean dishcloth on a work surface, cover with another clean dishcloth, and using the flat of your hand, slowly and gently smash the potato. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
Remove the thyme leaves from their stems and reserve both stems and leaves.
Heat the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When it is hot enough to sizzle, carefully add the potatoes and the thyme stems. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until well crisped on the bottom. Turn them over, lower the heat, and drizzle the honey over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and thyme leaves, and put the pieces of cold butter over, around and under the potatoes. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter melts.
Sprinkle with coarse salt and serve.