As soon as the first new crop of sweet potatoes hits the market stands, I bring a couple home to roast up until the tubers turn honeyed and velvety and just beg for a knob of butter or a drizzle of good olive oil to set off their plush orange flesh.
These days there are dozens of sweet potato varieties floating around the market, and I’ve tried as many as I see, including gentle white sweet potatoes, richly sweet red jewel yams, and tiny baby sweet potatoes with delicate skins. All of them have their charms, but my favorites are the so-called garnet yams, which arrive in the market in October, then disappear right after Christmas like a fleeting, edible gift.
I usually bake my sweet potatoes plain with just oil and salt. They really don’t need any other embellishment. But last year, after successfully roasting some Yukon Gold potatoes with a broken-up cinnamon stick and unpeeled garlic cloves strewn on the top, I decided to apply that same method to my pretty garnet sweets. It was one of those suddenly obvious, why-haven’t-I-done-this-before combinations. The cinnamon added that familiar, autumnal scent that made the sweet potatoes taste like Thanksgiving, while the garlic lent a caramelized, candy-like note that was about a million times tastier than marshmallows — at least if you ask me.
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, preferably garnet yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 thyme branches
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put all the ingredients in a baking pan and toss to combine, then spread out in an even layer.
2. Roast until the potatoes are tender and browned, 25 to 45 minutes. Serve hot or warm, along with the garlic cloves.
I love how the cinnamon stick subtly imbues the potatoes with a touch of sweetness, but you could take it in other directions flavorwise. A bay leaf and a sprinkling of smoked paprika would be nice and savory, or you could just roast the potatoes and garlic and season them with sage salt when they come out of the oven.
Make sure everyone squeezes the rich, caramelized garlic paste out of the skins to eat with the potatoes. It makes the dish.
If your family can’t embrace the notion of sweet potatoes without a sticky glaze on top, drizzle a little honey over the potatoes about halfway through baking.
For a spicy, zippy flavor, add a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the mix.