White sweet potatoes seasoned with sesame, nori, togarashi, and scallions make an addictive and easy-peasy snack.
After a busy few months, Jay and I were elated to escape the confines of the city last weekend to take a couple of long hikes in the woods. The tall trees, quiet earth, sunshine, and occasional waterfalls were the perfect antidote to the current misery of the world. Strolling through the woods next to a babbling brook was the exact opposite of scrolling my Facebook feed reading the rantings of babbling trolls.
I’m planning to take a lot of hikes in the next four years.
Jay and I have a little post-hike ritual that we invented back when we were both bojon (=no job, backwards) and had all the time in the world (though not much of the moneys). We’d explore a new-to-us trail in Marin or the East Bay, or walk on the beach, or hop on Muni in the hopes of exploring a different San Francisco neighborhood (assuming the bus didn’t break down). Then we’d find the closest brew pub and wash down an order of fries (preferably garlic) with a couple of cold ones. We called it a Bojon day.
After our epic hike last weekend, we staggered into Mill Valley Beer Works and ordered just that (plus a few tasty small plates including beet soup with crème fraiche and cacao nibs, radicchio slaw with orange yogurt dressing, and the gooiest ball of burrata slathered on grilled bread with fennel and persimmon). Beer and fries are the ideal post-exertion treat because: salt, fat, booze, and creamy potatoes. Though now that we’re not quite so bojon, splurging on some vegetable matter seemed like a good idea.
Back home and still in french fry mode thanks to Liz, I baked up a batch of these sweet potato oven fries. Japanese sweet potatoes have burgundy skin that gives way to ivory flesh. They’re a bit more dense and less fibrous than orange sweet potatoes, but with the same earthy deliciousness. While regular sweet potato fries tend to be soggy and limp, these cook up a bit more sturdy – still not as crisp as regular potatoes, but easier to dip than their jewel-toned counterparts.
The flavors are inspired by a dish of sweet potato fries I enjoyed at Pacific Catch with my sister and niece over the holidays. The wasabi aioli on the side is completely addictive for horseradish fans like myself. The sesame gets nice and toasty in the oven, a bit of togarashi adds kick, and some slivered crispy nori and scallions make it feel like a party.
So this year, if you find yourself getting bummed out by bullies, nettled by narcissists, maddened by misogynists, rattled by racists, or if you just need a dose of Bojon, might I recommend a walk in nature, some crispy root vegetables, and a swig of something refreshing.
And please take me with you.
- 2 medium Japanese sweet potatoes (around 700 g), scrubbed and cut into ½-inch thick matchsticks
- 3 tablespoons (45 g) sunflower oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
- 1 teaspoon brown sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
- ⅜ teaspoon fine sea salt
- a few pinches togarashi or cayenne powder (optional – for spiciness)
- 3 nori crisps (such as Gimme brand, 2x3" each), slivered
- dark green part of 1-2 scallions, slivered
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) good mayonnaise (such as Spectrum Olive Oil)
- ½ teaspoon wasabi paste (more to taste)
- squeeze lemon juice
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425ºF.
- Place the sweet potato matchsticks on a large, rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with the oil, sesame seeds, and salt, tossing well to coat. Spread in a single layer and bake 10-15 minutes until golden on the bottom; they should release from the pan fairly easily using a thin metal spatula once they’ve developed some color. Flip the slices over and cook until golden all over, 5-10 more minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of togarashi if using (a little goes a long way!), and the slivered nori and scallion.
- Meanwhile, make the aioli by stirring together the mayonnaise, wasabi, and lemon juice, adding more wasabi to taste if you like.
- Serve the fries hot with the aioli for dipping.