Sunday, March 14, 2010
After two consecutive weekends of mushy boiled dinner (all in the name of science, I swear. A comparison of slightly more expensive corned beef versus less-expensive vacuum sealed corned beef) - one of which was delicious and the other which was boring - please, do guess which was made with butcher-corned beef, and which was made with corned beef from a vacuum sealed bag - JR and I were ready for a little crispy fried potato action.
But not just any crispy fried potatoes - no, we wanted a combination of sweet and crispy. The exterior of these sweet potato-bacon cakes have the texture and flavor of a really good sweet potato chip, while the interior is creamy and a little extra sweet (thanks to the added honey). Liking contrast of flavors and textures as we do, these bad boys have in the last few weeks become fast favorites - and a great way to stretch an already inexpensive potato into four side dish servings (read: leftovers for work lunches when there are only two of you - yippee).
Sweet Potato-Bacon Cakes:
Makes 4 large hamburger patty-sized cakes
1 (one-pound) sweet potato
2 pieces bacon, cooked to desired crispness and crumbled (optional)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs for coating
vegetable oil for frying
honeyed-creme fraiche sauce (optional):
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the skin of the potato well, then pierce it all over with a fork. Wrap the potato in aluminum foil, then place it on a baking sheet and roast it until it is soft, approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. You can do this in advance if you'd like to cut down on weeknight prep time. Simply refrigerate the potato in its foil for up to one day, then move on to the cake preparation (or you could get through the removing the potato flesh from the skin process and then cover and refrigerate the flesh - either option works).
If you haven't done so already, allow the sweet potato to cool, then remove the flesh from the skin and place it in a large mixing bowl. Mash the roasted sweet potato until it is smooth in texture, then add the bacon, egg, and honey, and stir them well to combine. Add 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs, stir them into the mixture, season with salt and pepper, then grab yourself a large shallow dish (such as a pie dish) or a large plate upon which to put the breadcrumbs for coating.
Place 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs in the aforementioned dish, then form the sweet potato mixture into patties approximately 1/2-inch thick and 4-inches around. They strongly resemble (average-sized) burgers in shape and size at this point. Place the cakes into the crumbs as you finish each one, knowing, as you form them, that they are quite sticky and that they seem as though they might not keep together in the end. You'll be refrigerating them to help them set up, which, in turn, will help them remain intact during the frying, so not to worry. Once all four patties have been formed and placed in the breadcrumb dish, flip them over gently to coat both sides with the breadcrumbs; you will still see the orange of the potato between breadcrumb bits, this is perfectly fine, we're going for a bit of crunch, not total breadcrumb immersion.
Place the cakes on a small baking sheet, cover them with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours, before frying.
While the cakes are chilling, mix the creme fraiche and honey together in a small mixing bowl, then cover and refrigerate it until you're ready to serve.
Pour enough vegetable oil into a large, wide bottomed saute pan or sauce pan to come about halfway up the sides of the cakes once they are placed in the pot (for my pan, this is around 1 1/2 cups of oil). Heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then carefully add the cakes one by one (I use an angled spatula for this task to keep my skin and the oil as far apart as possible) and fry until they are crisp and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side (be sure to keep an eye on them as they can go from golden brown to burnt rather quickly). Remove the cakes from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil. Serve them forth with chicken, pork, or rabbit (I say rabbit for those of you who enjoy rabbit, as I do, and as my friend, Lan does. We like ourselves a rabbit stew and know that sweet potato goes well with certain preparations of it), and a tablespoon each of the honeyed creme fraiche.
Estimated cost for four sweet potato cakes with honeyed creme fraiche: $5.79. The sweet potato costs 99-cents per pound. The bacon costs $6.99 per pound, 2 slices is around 1/8th of a pound, so that's around 88-cents. The egg costs 26-cents or so, the honey is 25-cents, the thyme costs 12-cents, and the panko for the entire dish will run us around 63-cents (Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value panko breadcrumbs are $1.99 for 4 cups). The oil (I use canola for these) is around 9-cents per ounce, so figuring on a cup and a half, that's around $1.08. The creme fraiche costs $3.99 for 6 ounces - there are about 2 tablespoons per ounce, so that's 1/3rd of the container to get to our 1/4 cup, and that's approximately $1.33. The honey for the creme fraiche is 25-cents. For the cakes alone, it's $4.21, and with the sauce, the tally jumps to $5.79. Even at that, $1.45 per cake isn't too shabby for a seriously good side dish like this one.
Dinner tonight: Ziti in Red Sauce. Simple and delicious, and a throwback to the days of my grandmother's restaurant (the chicken parm always came with a small side of pasta of your choosing in simple red sauce). Estimated cost for two: $3.28. The pasta costs $1.99 per 1-pound box, we'll use half of that, so that's $1.00. The oil for the sauce costs 36-cents, the shallot costs around 25-cents, the garlic around 10-cents, and the crushed tomatoes were $1.50. I always add a little milk to cut the acid, so 1/4 cup or so will run us approximately 7-cents. I will also serve a simple salad of greens from the farmers market ($5.00 for a 6-ounce bag - thems a lot of greens, too, let me tell you), so the greens will cost around $1.67 for two (figuring an ounce each - it's a huge bag, have I mentioned that?), plus a drizzle of olive oil for 24-cents, plus salt and pepper, which I don't count in my math, so $5.19 for ziti and red sauce with the simple salad.