Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweet on Baked Sweet Potato Fries

When I was wearing a little more padding on my behind as a college student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, my friends and I would regularly gorge ourselves at our favorite local diner, Clarke's. Aside from their fluffy egg white omelets, thick chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes and indulgent "Charlie Brown" brownie sundae, we loved to dig into the casual eatery's sweet potato fries. They were the perfect texture - crisp, yet never greasy, and bursting with flavor. Hangover food never tasted so good -- even if I did have trouble zipping up my jeans by the end of my four years spent on the North Shore of Chicago.

In the three plus years since graduating Northwestern, I have yet to encounter a sweet potato fry that rivals Clarke's. Of course, I haven't really been looking that hard. Fries don't have the same allure that they did when I spent my Thursday nights perfecting my flip cup skills and dancing to Justin Timberlakes "Rock Your Body" on the beer-soaked hardwood floors at the "Swimmer House." Today, I get my kicks from cupcake dates with my girlfriends, sharing bottles of fine wine with my family and dining at restaurants that would turn their noses up at my former collegiate self. As par the course with getting older, my tastes have grown more refined, my temperment (aside from the whole neurotic bit) has mellowed, and I actually pay attention to those articles that tell me to take care of my body.

One way that I "take care of my body" is through eating healthy home-cooked meals to ensure that I do balance out the chocolate chip cookie runs and frozen pizzas with nutrient-rich items like oatmeal, edamame, salmon, and sweet potatoes. Instead of enjoying my 'taters fried up in a vat of oil like before, I now prefer my sweet potatoes baked. (My heart is quite fond of them that way too.)

Baked sweet potato fries are laughably easy to make and are a great side dish for dinner frittatas, and proteins like chicken and pork. Simply peel the potato, chop it into 1/2 inch thick chunks, toss with a little olive oil (a little goes a long way), sea salt and pepper, and then pop them in the oven at 375 degrees on a nonstick baking pan. They typically take approximately 20 minutes, but be sure to check on them throughout the baking process. It's important to stir the potatoes so they brown evenly on all sides. The potatoes are done when they are slightly brown and crispy on the outside, and can be easily punctured with a fork.

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