You know what this blog lacks? I’ll tell you what – it lacks SIDE DISHES!
With all of our attempts at desserts, main courses from around the world, and sauces for dipping/smothering food in/with, we have sorely neglected the humble category of sides. Much like Robin in the Batman saga, the poor side dish has been reduced to sidekick status and left to fend for itself while the big boy dishes get all the publicity. This post will probably do very little to change that, but hey, for one shining moment let the sidekick take center stage!
Thanks to Thanksgiving being right around the corner, this is the perfect time of year to experiment with sweet potato dishes. Since 90% of the families in the United States serve some form of vile, marshmallow and brown sugar laced sweet potato abomination as part of their annual food coma-inducing spread, sweet potatoes are about as cheap as they ever will be. Loaded down with 25 cent per pound taters, I wandered away from the traditional gooey gunk and took a slightly different path…
I’d like to say there was a great back story for this recipe – something about an ancient family cookbook, or some other inspirational tale – but this one was 90% “I wonder what will happen if I throw this in there” and 10% planning. I knew there would be sweet potatoes and fresh corn in it, but the rest was “Swedish Chef style” chopping and adding, something I am notorious for.
Since I already had two ingredients, it was time to take my mind (and the rest of me) wandering through the pantry to find other things to fill in the blanks in the ever-evolving recipe in my head. After a quick run through, I had in my hands a can of black beans, a red bell pepper, an onion, a head of garlic, a shallot left over from some other recipe, a box of low sodium vegetable broth, and a can of chipotles en adobo. Not a bad start, but what to do with them?
As I was roaming the kitchen doing my usual air guitar routine to some waaaay too loud music, I noticed my huge stainless steel skillet sitting in the clean dishes side of the sink and I had my idea – a skillet hash-like recipe. After pausing long enough to let the song I was enjoying end (gotta keep the neighbors entertained if they happen to be looking over, after all), it was time to get chopping.
Had it been summer (or had I been less lazy), I would have grilled the corn on the cob to get a good smoky char on the kernels before adding them to the skillet. Since this was a lazy kind of rainy, crappy day, I went the easy route and skillet browned the kernels after removing them from the cob. Not quite as good, but close enough for my purposes.
Dicing the onion, slicing the pepper into matchsticks, and mincing the garlic came next, and all were simple enough to do. Then came the big question – how to add the sweet potatoes to the dish and cook them to the point of being tender without turning the rest of the ingredients into a slimy mush. Even when sliced relatively thin, the cook time of the slices would probably be too long for what I was looking for, and I didn’t want to roast the things because I was being lazy, so into the microwave they went for 90 seconds. Hooray for lazy ingenuity!
With everything ready to go for the final dish, it was time to decide on seasonings. The chipotles were a no-brainer, and cumin was handy so in it went, but something was missing. The sweetness of the corn and sweet potatoes called out for more salt than I normally like to use, so I dug out a handy little “cheat item” – a pack of concentrated vegetable stock. This boosted the salt levels to a reasonable level AND added more flavor to the final dish, rounding it out perfectly.
Sure, it isn’t exactly a traditional holiday dish, but the savory, sweet, and spicy blend of flavors in this side dish beat the daylights out of a gooey mashed up mess of sugary paste topped with fake marshmallows any day.
Southwest Sweet Potato Skillet
- 1 medium sweet potato, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
- 1 15oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- Kernels from 2 cobs of sweet corn (or 1, 15oz can of corn kernels, drained)
- 2 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotles en adobo + 1 Tablespoon of the adobo sauce
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1 pouch concentrated vegetable stock
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Step 1 : Place a large, deep skillet on a burner over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet, followed by the corn kernels. Cook the corn until the kernels begin to show brown charring – about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Step 2 : Return the skillet to the burner and add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Add the diced onion, garlic cloves, chipotles and adobo, and the cumin to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to become translucent. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of the vegetable broth as needed if the pan becomes too dry.
Step 3 : Add the reserved corn kernels and the bell peppers to the skillet along with the pouch of concentrated stock. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Step 4 : While the corn, onion, and pepper mix is cooking, place the sliced sweet potatoes in the microwave on a plate and nuke for 90 seconds.
Step 5 : Remove the potatoes from the microwave and add them to the skillet. Add the remaining vegetable broth and spread the contents of the skillet as evenly as possible to ensure contact with the liquid. Cover the skillet and cook for 10 minutes.
Step 6 : Remove the cover from the skillet and add the drained black beans. Cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes or until all the liquid in the skillet is reduced away, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Remove from the heat, plate and serve.
Yield: 6 – 8 hearty servings, depending on your definition of “hearty”.
Nutrition / Serving (8 servings) :
198 calories, 34 carbs, 6g fat, 9g protein, 8g fiber, 7g sugar
P.S. The back to back sweet potato side dishes from both of us? Not planned, not even discussed now that I think about it. Just another classic example of how the two of us share a brain when it comes to food…
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