November 2012 reveals great divide amongst the American people. Tomorrow’s election will leave 45+% of us deeply concerned about the next four years. Thanksgiving day will leave even more people deeply concerned about their fellow Americans’ palates. Forget politics and religion, it’s food that reveals the true regional and familial diversity in this country.
Moving to DC 10 years ago, the Southern traditions of greens and sweet potatoes were exotic and foreign. In New England, the only thing we boil for several hours is brisket, and we don’t add molasses or marshmallows unless we’re serving dessert. This past week, in the heated run-up to Election Day, I was determined to find common ground.
Maple sugar brings sweetness and depth to the potatoes while a complex Autumn Apple vinegar delivers balance and brightness. Nutmeg and white pepper give complexity to these simple, bold ingredients. Richly sauced, the sweet potatoes needed grounding, and earthy kale, quickly fried or baked, adds both texture and grassy greenness to the dish. Best of all, it’s simple and brightly colored, a perfect addition to Thanksgiving tables filled with browns, beiges and whites.
As for tomorrow’s election? We’re a diverse country, currently under great economic duress and social change. The division amongst voters and slow movement of our government reflects a system that is working, awaiting clear(er) direction from a strong(er) majority of voters. Like the growing diversity of my Thanksgiving table, I’ll celebrate the diversity of our country: not just of race or religion, but of the people, geography, industry and education that shapes our beliefs and perspectives.
Whatever you believe, please vote tomorrow. Then we can begin arguing about whether stuffing belongs inside the bird (it clearly does).
Sweet and Sour Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale
- 2 tbs + 1/2 cup olive oil separated
- 2 large sweet potatoes cut in 1/2” by 3” wedges
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbs Autumn Apple Vinegar, separated*
- 2 tbs maple or brown sugar
- 4-6 cups water
- White pepper
- 2 cups Tuscan kale cut in thin ribbons
*While most cider vinegars are overpoweringly acidic with little depth, Sapore’s Autumn Apple provides balanced bite with fresh apple sweetness. To substitute, use a good Sherry vinegar and add 2 cups of fresh apple cider to the braising liquid.
- Heat 2 tbs oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Toss in potatoes and cook until beginning to brown, turning once or twice to caramelize on a couple of sides.
- Deglaze pan with 1/3 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar and sprinkle potatoes with sugar. Add water and cook covered for about 15 minutes until softened but still very firm in the center.
- Uncover potatoes and let liquid reduce as potatoes finish cooking. Add additional liquid if more cooking time is needed.
- When sweet potatoes are tender in the middle, but not mushy, toss with 2 tbs additional vinegar and let liquid reduce to a glaze. Season to taste with nutmeg and white pepper.
- While potatoes finish cooking, heat 1/2 cup oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Fry kale, remove to paper towels to drain. Season with sea salt and serve over potatoes.*
*Kale can also be baked in the oven. Toss with olive oil and salt and bake ribbons at 400 until crispy. Watch carefully to prevent blackening.