Candied yams is a Thanksgiving dish I've never cared for. I love the flavor, but why does it have to be the texture of baby food? I've grown up eating Korean sweet potatoes. My mom would poke them with a fork and throw them in the microwave. I looooooved them like this. When I went away to college, I'd buy sweet potatoes and prepare them in the same way. I was the girl walking around eating a sweet potato like it was an apple. I remember the first time I had a candied yam casserole with the marshmallows on top. It was mushy and sickeningly sweet. My friends raved about the toasted marshmallows. Toasted marshmallows are awesome (as are all slightly burnt sugary concoctions), but they're really just there to trick children into eating the gloppy mess of yams hiding under them. For this Thanksgiving, I decided to combine my beautiful Korean sweet potatoes with the ugliness that is the candied yam casserole.
Candied yams aren't actually yams. What Americans know to be yams are actually orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. If you really care, read this, and let me get back to my dish. I used Martha Stewart's Butter Pecan Sweet Potato recipe, but adapted it by using a mix of local Korean sweet potatoes. Pecans are insanely expensive in Korea. I've paced back and forth whimpering in front of an itty-bitty package of 10,000 won ($10) pecans at Homeplus. WHY?! In Texas, they fall from the trees like manna. Anyway, my point is, feel free to substitute a more economical nut or blend of nuts if you wish.
Finally, I chose to use two kinds of Korean sweet potatoes, Bam "chestnut" Sweet Potatoes 밤고구마 and Hobak "pumpkin" Sweet Potatoes 호박 고구마. Bam sweet potatoes are usually much cheaper, especially the mini ones that come pre-packaged. They're also drier, starchier, and have a whitish yellowish flesh. They taste best when steamed. Hobak sweet potatoes are slightly orange, and tastes sweet and buttery like a pumpkin. Currently hobak sweet potatoes cost 650-1000 won per 100 grams. For 5-6 sweet potatoes, that's about 10,000 won ($10). Because I had a few cheapie bam sweet potatoes lying around, I threw a few in with the mix, and it blended pretty harmoniously.
|The small round ones are "bam" sweet potatoes. |
The large ones are "hobak" sweet potatoes.
8 medium sweet potatoes (5 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/3 cup pecan pieces
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel potatoes and chop up into 1-inch cubes. Large sweet potatoes are very hard to cut. I physically could not cut them (with my cheap, dull knives). I had to have my big strong sister and her boyfriend do it. Use really sharp knives.
On a baking sheet, toss potatoes with olive oil; season with coarse salt. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until fork tender.
You can bake the sweet potatoes up to 5 hours ahead of baking, which is what I did. Refrigerate after baking, and then about 1-2 hours before you're going to put it into the oven, take it back out to bring it to room temperature.
Mix the butter, brown sugar, pecan pieces, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl then sprinkle over the sweet potatoes, dividing evenly. Bake until sugar is caramelized and hard, about 10 minutes.
Gently toss; serve immediately.