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Monday, September 13, 2010

Did You Say White Sweet Potatoes?

I was browsing  the Farmers Market the other morning before work as inspiration for dinner that night.  I picked up  fat Roma green beans, a basket of new potatoes, and Silver Queen corn. As I headed to my car, I stopped by the last vender on the row and spotted what I thought were overgrown fingerling potatoes.  I asked the kind farmer what they were.  "White sweet potatoes", he said.  "White?", I sputtered. "Did you say white sweet potatoes? I've never heard of white sweet potatoes",  I foolishly replied.  He looked at me as if I had three heads.  "They're sweeter and juicier than regular sweet potatoes", he said.  I thought to myself, how could they possibly be sweeter.....and jucier?  Potatoes, juicy?

Of course, I had to have them.

My mind reeled all day as to how I"d  prepare those juicy white sweet potatoes.  The cooler tempertaure of the day tempted me to make a chowder with those white sweets instead of  traditional diced white potatoes.

It was really a non-recipe.  A no brainer.  I had the ingredients.  They simply had to cook themselves.

I fried four strips of thick slab bacon in a dutch oven until very crispy and caramelized, pulled them from the pot to drain, and sliced them into pieces.  After dicing an onion, green pepper, and clove of garlic, I sauteed them in the bacon fat with a sprinkling of salt until softened and translucent.  I tossed in 2 peeled and sliced white sweet potatoes to color in the bacon fat before deglazing with white wine and two cups of chicken stock. When the stock came to a boil, I dropped in fresh thyme sprigs and saffron threads to infuse their flavor while the soup base simmered  for 30 minutes.  The saffron was a lily gilder.  Why not?  I had it.  It spoke to me.
When the stock reduced by half, I removed the spent thyme sprigs and poured in 2 cups of heavy cream.  I simmered the ultra concentrated creamed stock  for 20 minutes until it reduced. Once it was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, I dropped in fresh sliced haddock to poach and cook.

I ladled the haddock chowder into large pasta bowls, added 2 pats of unsalted butter for richness and gloss, the reserved sliced salty bacon, cracked pepper, sea salt, and fresh thyme.  A final dusting of smoked paprika finished it off.

It was incredibly rich.  Even cloaked with velvety stock infused cream, the soft white sweet potatoes gave their distinctive flavor and punch  They were very sweet, light, and juicy. Succlulent and juicy. Yep. The outer layers of the cooked potatoes melted away into the cream,  leaving soft potato pillow bites.  Although the haddock flaked and broke apart, it retained enough texture to counter the buttery spuds. Tiny fresh thyme leaves hinted to freshness with specks of green while crisp fried bacon slices boldly asaulted the creamy chowder with assertive salty crunch.  It was so rich, creamy, sweet, and salty.  Spoonful after spoonful was utter indulgence.
Mr. farmer man was spot on about his prized juicy white sweet potatoes.

Without them it would have been a really good chowder.

With them,  it was  perfect chowder.

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