I have to admit upfront that I am not a big fan of yams or sweet potatoes, but I keep hoping that I will find a recipe that changes my perspective. Although my guests raved about these, to me they are still yams. Accordingly, if you don’t like yams or sweet potatoes, this recipe might not change your opinion, but if you are already a lover of these tubers, you might enjoy this interesting sweet and salty spin.
The recipe as written serves 6-8 as a side dish and is very attractive to serve. It is based on a recipe by Ruth Reichel, an editor of Gourmet magazine for many years and published in Gourmet Today, a selection from the now defunct magazine. Epicurious has an adaptation of it as does the blog Drool-Worthy. Having read comments that it was very sweet with the suggested 1/3 cup of sugar, I cut back on the sugar and the sweetness seemed perfect. The recipe below reflects this change.
Candied Yams with Orange Bitters
1-1/2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup orange bitters
1-1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
4-5 yams or sweet potatoes, unpeeled, halved and then cut into wedges (about 3 lbs)
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground sea salt
10 whole thyme sprigs plus the leaves of 5 thyme sprigs
2 heads of garlic, skin left on, sliced in half
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare a 12 by 16 inch baking sheet with sides or a roasting pan of a similar size by lining it with foil or parchment. This isn’t essential but makes clean-up so much easier.
Place the orange juice in a saucepan with the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat to medium-high and simmer fairly rapidly for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and reduced to scant 1 cup (about the amount in a large glass of wine). Remove from the heat and add the bitters, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Place the potatoes in a mound in the centre of the lined baking sheet, add the chili flakes, the 10 thyme sprigs, and garlic halves, and then drizzle the reduced sauce over the mound. Toss well so that everything is coated and then spread the mixture out in a single layer on the sheet. I found that the garlic halves are quite delicate and need to be tossed quite gently. Grind about 1 tsp of sea salt to taste over the wedges.
Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 60 minutes, turning and basting the potatoes every 15 minutes or so. They need to remain coated in the liquid in order to caramelize, so if the pan is drying out too much you can add a little more orange juice. If the caramelization seems to be happening more quickly than the yams are cooking, reduce the heat by 25°F. At the end, the potatoes should be dark and sticky but not burnt. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before arranging on a platter and sprinkling with the fresh thyme leaves.