With all the dessert baking that’s been going on these days, you might be a little sick of the usual banana bread, chocolate cakes, and cookies.
Well, let’s explore a different side of desserts and sweet treats, with Anthony Bourdain’s Candied Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon. Those of us who enjoy Asian desserts would be used to sweet potatoes. From sweet potato sesame balls, to bubur cha cha, these starchy roots add lots of chewy bite to our favourite sweet treats.
While it might seem surprising that a celebrity chef would use this humble root in a recipe, if you’ve heard of the late Anthony Bourdain’s reputation, it might not be as unheard of. Author of the bestselling ‘Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly’, Chef Bourdain was never one to shy away from authentic, local food.
In memory of the late Anthony Bourdain, we’ll attempt to bring out the best qualities of the humble sweet potato, through simple cooking techniques. Bring on the starch!
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 700g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (I used Japanese sweet potatoes as that’s what I had on hand, but feel free to experiment with other varieties of sweet potatoes.)
- 80g brown sugar
- 35ml fresh apple cider (if you don’t have apple cider, you can use apple juice as a substitute)
- 2 tbsp bourbon
- Salt for seasoning
- Small saucepan
- Chopping board
- Baking dish
Preparation time: 10 minutes; Cooking time: 40 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Grease a glass or ceramic baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the sweet potatoes until barely tender, for about 8 – 10 minutes. Drain well.
- Spread them in the prepared baking dish in an even layer.
- In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar.
- Whisk in the cider and bourbon, season with salt and bring to a boil.
- Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and gently stir to coat.
- Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and the sauce is syrupy, for 35 – 40 minutes.
Recipe (In Pictures)
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Step 2: Grease a glass or ceramic baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. If you have a pastry brush, use it as it’ll be easier to grease the dish evenly. Otherwise, use the back of a spoon to spread the butter.
Step 3: In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the sweet potatoes until barely tender, for about 8 – 10 minutes. Drain well.
Step 4: Spread them in the prepared baking dish in an even layer. If your baking dish is a tad too small, don’t crowd them as I did! Split the sweet potatoes into two batches for baking.
Step 5: In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar.
Step 6: Whisk in the cider and bourbon, season with salt and bring to a boil.
Step 7: Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, for 1 – 2 minutes.
Step 8: Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and gently stir to coat.
Step 9: Bake the sweet potatoes at 200°C until tender and the sauce is syrupy, for 35 – 40 minutes.
My oven is a little quirky, in that the heating isn’t even—which explains the slightly crisp tops of only some sweet potato chunks. Nevertheless, these starchy cubes held a good amount of sweetness.
While still starchy like its fellow tuber, yam, sweet potatoes are generally a little moister, even after baking. Taste-wise, it’s somewhat like a cross between pumpkin and yam—sweet, sticky, and slightly fibrous.
Together with the bourbon sauce, it was an absolute delight. The butter and sugar in the sauce left a creamy mouthfeel, while a hint of tartness from the apple cider played on my palate. The alcohol content from the bourbon and cider would’ve burnt off during the cooking process, so all that’s left of the bourbon was mostly deep notes of caramel, vanilla and molasses.
I actually halved the original recipe, which called for 1.5kg of sweet potatoes—that’s a lot of tubers! Well, if you ever have a dinner party after this COVID-19 pandemic, feel free to rustle up some sweet potatoes and try out this recipe.
For now, you might want to adjust the quantities according to the people in your household. Try it, and let us know how it goes!
Expected Damage: S$7 – S$10 per portion (feeds 6 pax)