It may not be calendrical summer just yet, but it’s finally starting to at least feel seasonably appropriate around here. The extended daylight hours and relative warmth can draw even the most computer-bound of us outside, even if just for a little while. The combination of costume construction and the litany of new game releases seeks to combat the tractor beam that is a temperate, breezy summer afternoon, but one thing will always trump the appeal of the indoors: cooking when the ambient temperature is high. Though I love both cooking and baking, the notion of turning on the stove when the daily highs creep above 80 degrees (26.67 degrees Celsius) elicits an almost gut-level repugnance. This is where a grill comes in handy. Oh grills, you are such a lovely invention.
It’s been a little while since we’ve had a new entry to the Kitchen Codex and this recipe seemed like as appropriate an offering as any. This take on potato salad features both attention-grabbing colors and a unique melding of flavors. There’s your classic salty and sweet blend, but also an interesting acid/base pairing along with a crispy/soft texture contrast. Best of all, this recipe involves very little active cooking time and it proves to be a nice complement to just about any barbeque entrée (or can be an entrée in itself!).
Difficulty: Easy (moderate if your potatoes are uncooperative)
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 10-15 minutes of preparation, an optional latency period of a couple hours, and an additional 30 minutes of active cooking
Required Equipment: A large bowl, a smaller mixing bowl, a whisk or thinly tined fork, a sharp knife, a cutting board, aluminum foil, a spatula or tongs, a grill or grill pan
Optional Equipment: A grill or marinade brush, a microwave or toaster oven, a plate
3-4 large sweet potatoes
4-8 whole scallions
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey*
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste
*you can substitute 1.5 teaspoons of agave syrup or 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
Step 1: Thoroughly clean your sweet potatoes, taking care to remove all the dirt since the skins stay on throughout this recipe. Rinse your scallions and parsley if you’re using a fresh bunch.
Step 1.5 (Optional, but highly recommended): Once the potatoes are clean, pierce each of them once or twice with a fork or knife. If you’re using a microwave, arrange the potatoes on your plate and cook on HIGH heat for 4-5 minutes. If you’re using a toaster oven, place the potatoes in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees (190.56 Celsius) or the POTATO setting if there is one. The potatoes should emerge from this step with some give to them, but not entirely soft or cooked throughout. Leave the potatoes to cool to room temperature.
Step 2: Cut the potatoes into slices about ½” inch (1.27cm) thick. Pour your oil into the mixing bowl you’ll be using for the dressing. Pre-heat your grill to a medium-high heat.
|These are actually a little overdone. Ideally, your potatoes won't separate from their skins like this.|
Step 3: While the grill is coming up to temperature, either dip the potato slices in your oil or brush them with the oil using your marinade brush. You only want a light coating on each side so, if you’re dipping the slices, be sure to let any excess oil drip off.
Step 4: Once the grill is at the desired heat, cover your cooking surface with aluminum foil, then place your potato slices on the foil. Grill the potatoes for 3-5 minutes each side. The orange color of the potatoes will deepen, the slices will soften, and you should get distinct grill markings when each side is done. After you have turned all the potatoes over once, lay the scallions on the grill or foil. Cook the scallions for about 1.5-2 minutes a side.
Step 5: Remove the potatoes and scallions from the grill and put them in your large serving bowl; give the scallions a rough chop to divide them into bite-sized pieces. If you're using fresh parsley, chop it up now. In your mixing bowl, add both of the vinegars, the honey, the parsley, and your salt & pepper to the oil. Whisk these ingredients together, then pour them over the potato/scallion heap. Toss the heap until all components are evenly coated with the dressing. Ta da! You have some fancy, colorful potato salad!
I don’t like sweet potatoes. Can I use white potatoes instead?
Nothing’s stopping you from using white potatoes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A big part of what makes this recipe work is the sharp contrast of sweetness and acidic tartness, so removing half of that formula will have a correspondingly huge impact on your final product. Yams, however, make for an excellent substitute, as do satsumaimo if you can get your hands on some of them.
Can I use red wine vinegar instead of the apple cider/balsamic vinegar?
Yes. Just about any vinegar other than plain white vinegar will work in this recipe. So long as your dressing base has an acid that gives off a hint of sweetness you should be good to go. Feel free to experiment with red wine, sherry, or even champagne vinegars.
The potatoes are taking much longer to cook than they did in your instructions. What happened?
Sweet potatoes are extremely fibrous and dense, so it can take a while to get heat to distribute evenly though them. If you didn’t do Step 1.5 and pre-cook the potatoes and/or the slices are more than ½” inch (1.27cm) thick, you may need to add a bit more cook time per side. Just watch the potatoes carefully and remove them from the grill when they are fork tender.
The potatoes are sticking to the grill! There are orange bits everywhere!
I’d be lying if I said this never happened to me. Since sweet potatoes are, well, sweet they tend to present the same cooking hazards that sugary foods do. That is to say, they can stick to every possible surface and lose all structural integrity if left to their own devices. This is why Step 3 and the high heat of your grill are so important, as they work together to prevent this exact scenario. It’s also why using aluminum foil on the grill itself is a good idea (this also prevents potato slices from falling to a fiery death between the grill slats). If you find yourself in the midst of a mushy orange mess, try to remove the potatoes from the grill as best you can and apply a bit more oil if at all possible. Unless they fall into your heat source though, the potatoes should still taste pretty good!
Best of luck with your culinary experimentations!