Friday, May 14, 2010

Meat & sweet potatoes

Weirdly, Hannibal Lecter comes up often in the comments section of this blog. Weirdly, because I'm not a cannibal or murderer or even just mesmerizing and charismatic. But I do love fava beans, once ate a live sea urchin, and don't know how to photograph meat. This time, I'm just saying it before someone else does: that's a revolting picture of a delicious Santa Maria tri-tip

I've never cooked a tri-tip before, but will again after Wednesday night's triumph. Thomas Keller's method: pat your tri-tip with paprika, pepper and piment d'espelette. (I bought piment at the Spanish Table; it was spendy and not that special, so I recommend you pat the roast with any spice you like.) Refrigerate for 24 hours. Sear in hot oil. Add butter, crushed garlic, rosemary sprigs and lemon slices. Put in a roasting pan (or just use the same skillet) and slow roast at 300 for 40 minutes. Let rest in warm place for a half hour. It will be tender and scrumptious.

Keller's glazed sweet potatoes were less delectable. You scrub and then roast unpeeled potatoes until soft, dip in brown sugar, and broil. Failings: the leathery sweet potato skins were a turn-off and the sugar never really melded with the tubers.
My favorite sweet potato recipe comes from Barbara Kafka's Roasting. There are so many other fabulous recipes in Kafka's book -- the roasted broccoli in a lemon-garlic bath, the Richie Rich fish cakes, the soft polenta -- that I offer this recipe only as enticement to track down a copy.  You won't be sorry.

Maple-glazed sweet potatoes, insignificantly altered by me

1. Heat oven to 500.

2. Cut 3 or 4 (1 and 1/2 lbs total) peeled sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then across. Cut each section lengthwise into 3 wedges.

3. Use the smallest pan that will hold the potatoes comfortably. Put 3 TBS butter in this pan and pop in the oven for a few minutes to melt. Remove and place sweet potatoes in pan and toss so that they are all coated in butter. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss with 3 TBS maple syrup. Roast 15 minutes more. 

4. Kafka: "Sweet potatoes should be easy to pierce with the tip of a knife. Immediately remove to serving plate or sweet potatoes will stick to pan. Soak pan."

If I had to cull my cookbook collection this would be one of the last books standing. I suspect Ad Hoc at Home will not fall into this category.


  1. My aunt in Davis cooks tri-tips regularly, but apparently that cut of meat doesn't exist on the east coast. Sad for me.

  2. While that does look and sound yummy... I am skeptical that anything except Santa Maria-style BBQ could taste like Santa Maria-style BBQ. I grew up in a town where the main street was lined with Santa Maria-style BBQ vendors every Saturday afternoon. Classic (and deliciously low-brow) sides: french bread liberally, I mean liberally, soaked in butter and then grilled, iceberg lettuce salad drenched with italian dressing and baked beans. mmm! The actual BBQ itself is an amazing contraption.

  3. KLC -- What town did you grow up in? I have always wanted to taste the real thing.

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