Back when Andrew and I were dating, I was writing a foodie column for a local online publication. Twice per month I composed recipes with seasonal, usually local ingredients, photographed my steps and ate the end result. Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil Cake, Moroccan Spaghetti Squash, New Year’s Resolution Soup and Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin were just a few of the recipes I made. Some were huge successes, while others, like my homemade Browned Butter Sage Butternut Squash ravioli, fell a little flat and were, um…chewy.
One meal stands out in my memory as being one of Andrew’s favorites and one of my most original ideas. Fried Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Hash Cakes and Apple Gravy. Doesn’t that just sound like fall to you? And to my knowledge, no one has since or ever before made apple gravy. You heard it here first, folks. I AM THE CREATOR OF APPLE GRAVY!
Andrew shared this enormous dinner with me and thought it all was pretty good, but he absolutely LOVED the sweet potato hash cakes. If I recall correctly, they had shredded sweet potato, apple, onions or shallots, plus an egg and maybe some breadcrumbs to keep it all together. I pan-fried those little guys in olive oil and they came out crispy, crunchy, and savory-sweet. (Perfect with apple gravy, if I do say so myself.)
Since that dinner, he’s pestered me for sweet potato cakes or hash or anything else that resembled that infamous side dish. And only until recently have I granted his request – selfishly I admit that I had to first fall in love with sweet potatoes myself to make them for him.
Sweet potatoes are in season now, and you can head to your local farmers market or grocery store to pick up these fat ruby-fleshed tubers. Full of fiber and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes provide a satisfying source of sweetness and starch for anyone looking to cut down on the carbs and still gain plenty of vitamins and nutrients along the way.
My revised and modern rendition of sweet potato hash begins with alliums. I love a good caramelized onion, but a recent trial with shallots came out nicely too. Whatever you choose, chop it up finely and gently soften it in a pan until the onion/shallot begins to brown.
Your fat of choice makes a big difference in what tastes you highlight in this meal. A generous dollop of butter makes caramelized onions sing, while a scoop of coconut oil brings out the toasty, sweet note to the already sweet potatoes. I recently used browned butter and was thrilled with the depth of flavor and aroma, and I suggest adding sage to your hash if you go this route.
Speaking of sage, sweet potato hash is a great platform for a number of spices. I usually season my with a simple sprinkling of coarse sea salt, but as I mentioned sage complements the earthy flavors, especially when paired with browned butter. Additionally, curry powder and cayenne would be zingy in this dish – I haven’t tried this yet, but I have designs to use some recently acquired curry coconut oil (Ziggy Marley’s brand, no less!) to fry up my next batch of sweet potato hash.
Sweet potato hash can be a comforting meal on its own, but I suggest adding some protein to make it a more complete dish. Some rustic sausages, roast chicken, or of course a pork chop with apple gravy all compliment the sweetness of the hash and look so very provincial served with a tankard of dark beer.
For breakfast, sweet potato hash demands a fried egg. Simply put, the two were made for each other. And remember a while back when I documented my search for the perfect breakfast I think I’ve found it, and if consistency suggests anything than you can deduce that eating sweet potato hash with a fried egg on top for a week straight highlights a clear winner for me “best breakfast” award.
Sweet Potato Hash
2 large sweet potatoes, diced
1 large yellow onion or a handful of shallots, diced
1 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil, plus more for the pan
1 Tbsp. dried sage
sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
splash of chicken stock
Heat a large skillet until your fat is liquid and sizzling. Add in alliums and stir to coat in fat, allowing onions/shallots to caramelize. Once they are beginning to brown, throw in chopping sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Sprinkle in a bit of sea salt and dried sage and cover with a lid and let the sweet potatoes alternately steam and caramelize, stirring occasionally. After about five minutes of uninterrupted steaming, splash in a bit of chicken stock (or water) to deglaze the pan and help with the steaming process. Cover again, stirring occasionally, until potatoes reach desired tenderness.
While sweet potato hash is cooking, prepare protein – fry your egg in the same fat used for the hash, roast some pork chops or grill some sausages. For this meal, I used Applegate Andouille sausages that I “grilled” on a cookie rack on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees in the oven.