Sweet Potatoes Two Ways
Have you ever had real sweet potatoes? The kind that are seasoned with the slightest bit of sugar, to bring out the root vegetables natural sweetness, enough butter to provide creaminess, and toasted pecans that provide a hint of nuttiness and texture? I have. I was in New Orleans at Muriel’s Jackson Square. They immediately transported me back to dinner with my Gram. She knew how to make this little girl eat her vegetables. Make them taste like heaven but not like dessert.
That night at Muriel’s I had an amazing piece of fish in front of me, escargot to my left and I ignored them both to scarf down sweet potatoes. My friend was eating with me and probably felt like his life would be in danger if he attempted to eat any. He was right. Get your own f***ing sweet potatoes. In all fairness to me, after my gram died I had tried other recipes but almost all of them called for mounds of marshmallows burnt- I mean melted- on top to provide the ‘subtle sweetness’. Yuck. The sweet potatoes at Muriel’s were different. Not a marshmallow in sight and I even got the added bonus of toasted pecans. While I am sure many will tell me better places to get sweet potatoes in New Orleans (I’m always down to taste test on that one) I fell in love with that smelly town that night. Any town that proudly serves that as a side dish has a vote from me.
The next experience I had that made me want to set up shop in New Orleans and perform a six month culinary crawl through the French Quarter was at Southern Candy Makers. I walked in and was promptly asked, “Would you like to try a prah-leen?”For a moment I thought I might have misheard him so I cocked my head to the side and gave pause. When the nice gentleman behind the counter did not repeat himself I started to rapidly go through my memory banks in search of something that ‘prah-leen’ sounded like. As I write this I realize that it’s much easier to identify ‘prah-leen’ as a praline when written rather than heard by my naive west coast ears. Please forgive me native New Orleaneans. Regardless of my blank stare, the gentleman behind the counter at Southern Candy Makers in New Orleans, Louisiana handed me a light brown piece of candy and said “it’s our creamy original.” It was good. Again, my previous experience was with factory made pralines that were basically a shit ton of sugar with some pecans in it. The thought alone give me that ‘I ate too much sugar’ sick to my stomach feeling. This was different. It was a great balance. What came next I was not expecting. The same friend that ate dinner with me at Muriel’s was with me again. He had been given another variation of ‘prah-leen’ to try and looked at me, almost with a look of dread, when saying “try this one. You’ll love it.
All I have to say is that I did. They were sweet potatoe. I will make no attempt to string 80 adjectives together to describe how creamy the sugar was, or how the toasted pecans elevated the candy to a new level, just as it had in the sweet potatoes the night before. They simply took the dish I had forsaken all others for the night before and given it to me in a bite size treat. It was amazing. I left the store with a box of them and ate them before departing Louisiana 3 days later.
And I have another box on the way.