Candied yams — those deep orange, overcooked tubers that were too sweet and too uniform in texture — were never a favorite of mine. Topped with marshmallows, the dish is often made with canned yams, earning them a comparison to candy. But the nuanced flavor and crispy skins of real yams or sweet potatoes can get lost in this “traditional” mid-century preparation — not to mention many of the vitamins you get from the fresh, unpeeled version.
Sweet potatoes, or “yams” as they’re often called in the U.S. (true yams are something else entirely), are easy to find in most farmers markets this time of year, and I tend to prefer the soft, orange-fleshed varieties to the firmer yellow or white ones. Also in season in many parts of the country is maple syrup, nature’s candy-like glaze — and it’s better than marshmallows. With the skins left on, real sweet potatoes can be sliced on the bias, basted with maple syrup and oil, and roasted until they are slightly crispy on the edges with an irresistibly soft orange interior. Unlike their canned counterparts, these treats are perfectly natural and pretty good for you too.
Maple-glazed sweet potatoes
Makes 6-8 small servings
4 lbs sweet potatoes or “yams,” tough ends trimmed and sliced on a bias into oval-shaped discs about one quarter-inch thick
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the sliced sweet potatoes in the maple syrup and oil mixture and arrange in a single layer on a lightly greased (with more oil or a slick of butter) cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then brush more of the maple syrup and oil mixture on the tops of each piece. Continue to bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges have just begun to crisp and the flesh is very soft. Remove with a metal spatula from the pan immediately to prevent them from sticking, and transfer to a platter to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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