Did you know the other uses of the conventional oven?
As extended storage space for heavy-duty cookware like the cast iron griddle, cast iron skillet, cast iron wok (kadai) and any other hard-to-lift cookware that are too big or hefty to fit inside the kitchen cabinets of a cozy apartment? That’s how it was for me until…I discovered the joy of baking, very lately. And since then, I cannot stop thinking about what I can cook in the oven next.
Even though conventional ovens were not a common sight in India back in my childhood years (even now it isn’t as much as the microwave), roasting sweet potatoes was not an unfamiliar concept. When we were kids, sweet potatoes belonged to the category of ‘fun eats’. Especially in my grand dad’s 100 ft long house in Mysore, at the fag-end of which was the old time bathroom with a pretty quarter of it occupied by a huge ancestral brass cauldron (hande, pronounced ‘hun day’ in kannada) for heating water. What has a boiling cauldron got to do with roasting sweet potatoes? Nothing. Except, the fireplace that heats it up from underneath while being mainly accessible from the outside of the bathroom, to place the firewood or light up the fire. On the hot flammable charcoal remnants in that fireplace was the perfect spot for roasting sweet potatoes covered in ashes and fiery red charcoal. I guess it wasn’t just the roasted sweet potatoes, but the whole process of roasting in itself that got the excitement written all over us. Those roasted sweet potatoes were uber simple with no special recipe to die for. But I guess I couldn’t help thinking about them ‘cos that’s how sweet potatoes were meant to be eaten, roasted not boiled nor steamed. Roasting really brings out the wild sweetness and the underground nuttiness of sweet potatoes like no other cooking method does. Along similar lines went the roasting of Jackfruit seeds (nuts) as well. Let me not drift off to another story lane now.
I have already posted in “Indian-American: A Fusion Thanksgiving Feast” how over the top I was in ‘the mood’ to celebrate Thanksgiving the American way, sans the turkey of course. After hogging on Food network for weeks before Thanksgiving, I was familiar with the festive menu to say the least. But when it was time to draw up my own fusion menu for the special day, the recipe courtesy was by mr.google who brought me to this site where I found it and liked it.
I should admit that I approached the recipe with a lot of scepticism. How can something as sweet as this tuber taste scrumptious when seasoned with garlic, herb and red chilli flakes? But I left the better part of my judgement behind and now, I am thankful that I did.
The result? Luscious sweet potatoes, velvety on the inside with blistering brown outsides and delicious garlic herb flavors. Sweet potato and thyme in perfect harmony, the sweetness of it balanced by a hint of the red pepper flakes at the back of the tongue. Very satisfying as much as it is filling, absolutely easy as much as it is delicious.
As an amateur baker myself, I feel this is the easiest recipe there is to make in a conventional oven. So those of you who have avoided the ‘oven’ like the plague or have dressed it up for another job like I did for so long, let me tell you ~ if I could do it, you surely can too. Go dust your oven, so your kitchen can smell of warm aromas you have only read about…
recipe source: epicurious.com | November 2005| by Kathryn Matthews
Things you’ll need:
1 large Sweet potato washed and cut into 1/2″ thick rounds
2 big Garlic cloves, minced
5-6 sprigs of fresh Thyme
3 tsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes / 1 sachet crushed red pepper (pizza accompaniment)
ground black pepper (per taste)
How it’s done:
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium-size mixing bowl, add all the ingredients sprinkling salt and ground black pepper as per your taste and toss well to coat the spices and herb onto the sweet potato rounds.
On a large baking tray lined with quick-release aluminium foil, arrange the sweet potato rounds individually in a single layer. Oven roast the sweet potatoes placed on the top rack until tender and browned on top or about 40 mins. Check in between and more towards the end for otherwise burnt edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I have roasted at 350°F and 400°F. If you want the sweet potatoes to be soft and tender and lightly browned, bake at 350°F. Or, if you want it to be crisp on the outside and softer on the inside, go for 400°F. Just be sure to check often with 400°F as the sweet potatoes tend to get burnt on the outside and the same goes to the garlic and herb as well.
Place the sweet potatoes in the oven soon after adding salt.
Those little unused sachets of crushed red pepper from pizza home deliveries that you kept aside, this is the time to make use of it. That’s what I did. Though I had shelved them, I was pleasantly surprised that they came handy here indeed.
To release the tiny thyme leaves from the sprig easily, pull the leaves back rather than forward.