Monday, May 10, 2010

miso-glazed sweet potatoes

My sixth-grade teacher would often recount the story of her neighbors’ German shepherd—let’s call him Max. Max was a notoriously gluttonous dog. At first, people were tempted to blame hubris—a canine “Diamond” Jim Brady complex—but it turns out there was some faulty wiring in Max’s brain. His appetite was literally insatiable.

This, apparently, is a more serious problem than you might think. Max’s owners were forced to monitor his diet, carefully restricting his daily intake. And one day, left alone during the couple’s vacation (with a neglectful dog-sitter), Max ate his way through a week-long ration of food in one sitting. His stomach exploded.

Needless to say, the story haunted me for some time. Whether it was intended as some kind of case study in canine physiology, an allegory to warn against overeating, or merely as an urban legend to torment pre-teens, I still don’t know. What I do know is that last Sunday I felt deep empathy for that German shepherd. No, not because of some brain mis-wiring; in my case, the awareness of one’s own physical limitations was simply overridden by a far greater imperative: deliciousness.

The culprit? These miso-tahini glazed sweet potatoes, whose appeal was undeniable and, in retrospect, totally predictable. (Given my love for miso and tahini—both well documented here—the combination would naturally prove irresistible.)

Sweet and nutty and packed with umami, they are dangerously good—as in, I-literally-can’t-stop-eating-this-good. Google informs me that this whole “exploding stomach” thing is unlikely (at least in humans), but don’t be surprised if you end up in a state of miso-tahini-glazed delirium.

Miso-Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Teaism, via Washingtonian Magazine

This recipe claims to serve eight people. Eight people! I am so ashamed.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
Canola oil, as needed
1/3 cup yellow miso paste
1/3 cup tahini
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup mirin
1-2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons sugar

Make the dressing: Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk until completely blended. Taste and adjust seasoning. This dressing is best if it’s prepared and kept overnight in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to mingle. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sweet potatoes with just enough canola oil to coat. Season with salt. Add the potatoes to a small baking pan; you want to crowd the potatoes in the pan to help them steam. Bake for 30 minutes, or until done. Set aside to cool.

Drizzle the dressing over sweet potatoes and serve.

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