I started wearing close-toed shoes a couple weeks ago. If that’s not a sign that fall has arrived, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately, I’ve been in something of a denial about the season up until now, mostly revolving around the (very very bitter) fact that I didn’t get my fill of summer produce (seeing that most of the season was spent eating Trader Joe’s-branded cereal). I wanted to be a glutton come summer, you know? Eat way more tomatoes than my stomach could possibly bear, stuff myself with watermelon, incorporate corn and zucchini and eggplant into every single meal. That sort of thing. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do when nature presents you with all this amazing stuff ONCE a year. No, I don’t feel I reached my potential.
What turned me around in the end was these. Did I ever mention how much I love fall fashion? I’m pretty certain everyone loves fall fashion, but in my case, a beautiful pair of boots is enough to get me excited about the chilly days ahead. I’m also deliciously contemplating a new coat, the excuse to whip out leather gloves, and woolly socks! Don’t get me started on how much I love my woolly socks. I also can’t wait to head upstate to see the fall foliage (which was beautiful last year), take brisk walks through Central Park (so quintessentially New York, no?), and sip on cups of hot apple cider while strolling through the farmer’s market.
I’m also finding myself drawn to using my oven once more. It’s funny how something as innocent as the temperature of the air can dictate one’s desires. I couldn’t have imagined anything more unpleasant than turning on the oven just a couple months back—like NO foods were worth it, not even cookies—and yet, here I am, craving oven-baked sweet potato fries.
My head is a jumble of half-thought-out recipes, but before we get to the aspirational ones, let’s focus, for once, on what I actually eat pretty regularly, or rather, started eating pretty regularly (well, until summer hit, ha) after Amy laid out the steps to the best baked sweet potato fries half a year ago.
There is so much discussion on the web about how to achieve that Platonian ideal of the faux-deep-fried sweet potato fry. I’m actually more opposed to the mess caused by deep-frying than anything else. It’s a proven fact that oil spatters rise (or else explain to me why the things I store above the cabinets are perennially covered in a layer of grime), and I try to make it easy for my better half (better because he does the cleanup, you see) so I’ll save deep-frying for things like, I dunno, donuts? Churros? They’re worth the grease-stained stovetop.
Anyway, I got a taste of this raging debate after Googling the topic. Let me tell you, it is clearly the heyday of the sweet potato fry. People have thought of everything! To the mushy fry, space them apart while baking, to the soggy fry, rinse and let them dry before tossing them with oil and seasonings, to the burned fry and the undercooked fry, cut all your fries the same size. And most importantly, coat them! Coat them with a thin layer of corn starch or cornmeal or semolina, which tricks your tastebuds into believing you’re actually eating something really crispy and, therefore, fried, even if you’re not. Honestly, I don’t have much more to add. Just follow Amy’s advice. Although I do love the cornmeal/semolina coating just as much as the corn starch because it creates this texturally pleasing layer that crunches inside your mouth.
Now that I feel I’ve finally made peace with fall, I’ve got some season-appropriate recipes to start planning!
P.S. Yogurt + honey + a pinch of cinnamon makes a damn good dip.
BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES
Adapted from The Moveable Feasts
Serves 1, generously
1 sweet potato, washed and scrubbed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp corn starch, semolina, or cornmeal
salt, pepper, and other spices (paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, etc.) to flavor
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice the sweet potato into sticks that are about the same in size (I aim for more than 1/4″ but less than 1/2″ square cross sections). Rinse them in a bowl of water and lay them out to dry. When dry, toss the fries in olive oil, corn starch/semolina/cornmeal, salt, and whatever other spices you’re using. Lay them out on a baking sheet in one layer (I don’t bother with parchment paper or anything), leaving a little space around each one. Bake about 30 minutes.
Simple dipping sauce: 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1 heaping tsp honey, a pinch of cinnamon