by Mario Batali

Sweet Potatoes in Cartoccio

Sweet potatoes are best known to us as a guest at the Thanksgiving table almost as venerable as the turkey, and are often topped with marshmallows or boiled and drizzled with molasses.

You may not recognize sweet potatoes in their original form. They are long, starchy tuberous root vegetables that appear in two main varieties: orange fleshed (sometimes mistaken for yams) and yellow fleshed. They can be long and pointed or stumpy and round. Sweet potatoes store well and are available almost year-round but are typically harvested in the fall.

Americans have lapsed in their appreciation for the sweet potato, which originated in Central and South America before 750 BCE. In fact, sweet potatoes were cultivated and consumed before the white potato. (Recent research indicates the sweet potato might have been brought from South America to Polynesia long before Columbus made his ocean voyage.)

It boggles the mind how much nutrition sweet potatoes contain: Just one has over four times the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. And they are perhaps unduly packing in fiber and beta-carotene.

Simply roasted split in half and sprinkled with salt, the sweet potato has a remarkably rich natural sweetness.

But however you prepare sweet potatoes, it's hard to go wrong. Baked, roasted or mashed, the thin skin contrasts beautifully with the starchy insides. You can use them to make gnocchi, or slice them into thick fries, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted until just brown and crunchy on the outside.

The brown sugar and butter are here in the recipe that follows, but slicing sweet potatoes and cooking them with onions and olive oil in cartoccio -- that is, in a tinfoil pouch -- gives them a whole new lease on life. Thinly slice jalapeno or Serrano peppers and sprinkle on top of the potatoes before serving. The hint of heat will bring out the sweetness of the whole thing.

Serve these with the spit-roasted prime rib or spit-roasted turkey breast porchetta style.

Sweet Potatoes in Cartoccio

From "Italian Grill" by Mario Batali (ecco, 2008)

Serves 6.

6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.

Cut six 14- by 12-inch sheets of heavy-duty foil and lay them out on a work surface, with a short end toward you. Layer 1/6 of the potato slices and onion rings on the bottom half of each sheet of foil, leaving an inch or so of space all around. Brush the tops and sides of the vegetables with olive oil, using 1 tablespoon for each packet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dot the top of each pile of potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar. Fold about 1/4 inch of the sides and bottoms of the foil to seal the edges, and then fold over again to make a tight seal.

Place the packets on the hottest part of the grill and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer to a large platter or baking sheet and let stand for 10 minutes.

Serve in the foil, warning your guests about the hot, fragrant steam that will arise when they cut into the packets. Be sure to spoon some of the syrupy juices over the sweet potatoes.



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"Sweet Potatoes in Cartoccio"

Sweet Potatoes, Thanksgiving

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