My mom only ate sweet potatoes for dessert. She’d throw one in the microwave and dig in. No butter, no sweetened condensed milk, nothing. I kept telling her, “Mom, that’s not dessert, that’s a potato.” For a while I thought this reflected our cultural divide. She grew up in the Philippines, where inherently sweet ingredients like corn went into desserts. I grew up in Chicago, where corn was buttered and salted and beans went into burritos. But when I started working in restaurants during Thanksgiving, I saw what the white boys and black guys I worked with made, and I was confused all over again. As I watched them pile the brown sugar and marshmallows on sweet potatoes, I was thinking, “That’s just pie without the crust.”
Maybe, then, it’s just me who likes a more savory preparation. Here, there’s as much soy sauce as there is maple syrup. A last-minute shower of crumbled bacon drives the point home.
Excerpted from the book ASIAN-AMERICAN by Dale Talde with JJ Goode. Copyright © 2015 by Dale Talde, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
Special Equipment: About 12 (8-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes. A grill, preferably charcoal.
- 3 Pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into one-inch thick slices
- 1 Teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 bacon slices
- 1/2 Cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 Cup maple syrup
- 1/4 Cup sherry vinegar
- 1/4 Pound cold unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
- 1/4 Cup scallions, thinly sliced
Put the potatoes in a medium pot, add enough water to cover by about ½ inch, and add enough salt so the water tastes slightly salty. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the potatoes are nearly cooked but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and let them cool. You can do this a few days in advance.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Add the bacon to a foil-lined baking sheet in one layer and bake until brown and crispy, about 15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving the fat for another purpose.
Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, and sherry vinegar in a small pan, bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
Combine in a blender with the butter (or over low heat, whisk in a piece of butter at a time), blend until smooth, and reserve.
Preheat a well-oiled grill to cook over medium-high heat. Skewer the potatoes, leaving a little space between slices and leaving a couple of inches at the bottom of the skewer empty. Brush or drizzle some of the soy sauce mixture all over the potatoes. Grill the potatoes, flipping and brushing or drizzling on sauce occasionally, until the potatoes are lightly charred, shiny, and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the skewers to plates, crumble on the bacon, sprinkle on the scallions, and drizzle on a little extra sauce. Eat.