Food & Wine (November 2014)
These Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Rice Topping were probably the dish we were most excited to make for our Fakesgiving dinner.
We just loved the idea of classic sweet potatoes topped with spicy crispy rice -- what a cool twist!
The result was good. Maybe even really good. But it fell a little short of our expectations.
First off, the sweet potatoes themselves are completely standard and, frankly, forgettable. If we made these again, we'd pretty much double everything you add to the sweet potatoes except for the cayenne. More butter, more orange zest, more salt, more pepper. More something.
That's fine, though, because this dish is really all about that crispy rice topping.
Let's call this what it is: Basically, you make a thin sheet of Rice Krispie Treats, let them cool, break them into small pieces and scatter them across the sweet potatoes.
Okay, they're not exactly Rice Krispie Treats. These are less sweet, more crispy, and they have a kick from the cayenne. But the idea is kind of the same.
We made one tiny mistake in prepping these that we think may have kept them from being as delicious as intended. It's possible we let our caramel get too dark. Only a little, but we think it may have added the slightest burnt taste to the rice topping. That, along with the cayenne, kept the topping firmly in the smoky/spicy realm rather than the sweet one. We would have preferred more sweetness.
In fact, we kind of can't believe we're saying this, but we found ourselves wishing this topping was actually more like classic Rice Krispie Treats. Maybe a little more sugar? Or a maybe a little less sugar but stir in [gasp!] a small handful of marshmallows? That would keep it from getting quite as crispy, but it might be super delicious.
Regardless, one thing we definitely should have done was to break the hardened crispy topping into smaller pieces than we did. We wound up with large-ish bite-sized pieces -- you'd do better to break those up even further, so you get more of a universal coating.
Several of our Fakesgiving guests called this out as one of their top three or four favorite dishes. So obviously it's good. But we think with just a few tiny tweaks -- more oomph in the actual potatoes, more sweetness in the topping, and breaking the topping into much smaller pieces -- this would be a real show-stopper.
Active time 45 min | Total time: 1 hr 30 min
5 pounds medium sweet potatoes
3 cups Rice Krispies
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, plus more for seasoning
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350° and line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Prick each potato all over with a fork and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake the potatoes until tender, about 1 hour; turn the potatoes over halfway through baking. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet and 2 large spoons with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly coat a large heatproof bowl with nonstick cooking spray and put the Rice Krispies in it. In a small bowl, mix the baking soda with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil over moderately high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until a golden caramel forms, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda mixture; the caramel will foam. Immediately drizzle all of the hot caramel over the cereal and, using the 2 greased spoons, quickly toss to coat. Spread the topping on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer and let cool completely, then break into pieces.
Scoop the sweet-potato flesh into a food processor. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and the cream, orange zest and a generous pinch of cayenne and puree until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving bowl and dollop with additional butter. Serve, passing the crispy rice topping at the table.
MAKE AHEAD: The pureed sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for 2 days; reheat gently before serving. The crisp rice topping can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.