These caramelized potatoes are dense and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside; creamy tahini yogurt both enriches and brightens; and spicy seaweed gomasio pulls this dish from the edge of cloying.
Tips—I generally prefer smallish Japanese sweet potatoes—their relatively dry, firm, white flesh remains dense once cooked, unlike orange sweet potatoes, which risk breaking apart during parboiling. If you don’t want to make seaweed gomasio, try this dish with store-bought togarashi, toasted sesame seeds, or basic gomasio; the latter two can be mixed with a little Aleppo-style pepper or ground chile de arbol to taste.
2 pounds sweet potatoes (5 small or 3 medium), scrubbed
Fine sea salt
1 cup Tahini Yogurt (recipe below)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
3 to 4 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion, white and light-green parts (optional)
1 tablespoon Seaweed Gomasio (recipe below), Spicy Seaweed Gomasio (recipe below), or store-bought togarashi
- Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 to 2 inches. (You start the whole potatoes in cold water so that they cook evenly—from the center out.) Add 2 pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 35 to 50 minutes, or until a paring knife inserted meets only slight resistance (at this point, you don’t want the potatoes to be completely soft or they will fall apart when smashed.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F (do not use convection as the skin will quickly burn). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Thin the tahini yogurt with a few tablespoons of water—you want it the consistency of pancake batter or a creamy soup. Season the dressing with salt to taste.
- Drain the potatoes, lay them out on a kitchen towel (to absorb extra moisture). When cool enough to handle, gently press on potatoes with your palm until slightly flattened. If you are using baby sweet potatoes, leave them whole. If large, tear each smashed potato into roughly 4-inch pieces; they will be irregularly shaped and sized, and that is good. The point is to expose its starch without creating mashed potatoes.
- Divide the potatoes between the two baking sheets and gently toss each batch with 2½ tablespoons olive oil and 2 pinches of salt. Spread them out, leaving 1 or 2 inches around each piece—overcrowding causes steaming and prevents browning. Roast for 22 to 25 minutes; flip the potatoes and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes more, or until both sides are crispy, caramelized, and—my preference—charred in spots.
- Squeeze a 1/4 lemon over each pan, seasoning each piece with a few drops.
- To serve, lay down one layer of crispy potato onto plates or a serving platter or bowl. Drizzle the potatoes with a little tahini yogurt and top with a sprinkling of green onion (if using) and seaweed gomasio. Finish with another layer of potatoes, another drizzle, another sprinkling.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, with a small bowl of any remaining tahini yogurt on the side.
More of a ratio than a recipe, this is a very versatile sauce. Serve it alongside grilled fish, meat, or vegetables; toss with pasta; use it as a condiment for grain salads or baked eggs; thin it with a bit of water and use it has a salad dressing. It actually makes a great thickener for creamy soups too—try it with cauliflower or pumpkin.
Mix 5-to-1 ratio, yogurt to tahini; season with salt to taste, thin with water, as needed, depending on use.
This spice blend sees a lot of action in my house. So many dishes benefit from its rich, nutty, briny flavor. If you are a fellow sesame lover, double this recipe. You can use a coffee or spice grinder and grind it in batches, or if you have a high-speed blender, use that to blitz the whole batch in one go.
Makes 1 cup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
One 2-inch piece kombu, torn into 2 or 3 pieces
1 sheet nori, torn or cut with scissors into roughly 2-inch pieces
- Toast the sesame seeds and kombu in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until seeds are fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes (kombu will crisp up as it cools). Add the nori and dulse and dry-toast 1 to 2 minutes more. Let everything cool to room temperature.
- Remove a tablespoon or so of seeds and set aside. Pulse the remaining seeds and seaweed with the salt in a coffee grinder until coarsely ground. Stir in reserved whole sesame seeds.
- Gomasio can be made 1 month ahead (it doesn’t spoil, but its flavor deteriorates over time). Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Spicy Seaweed Gomasio
Mix 1 cup seaweed gomasio and, depending on how spicy you want it, 3/4 to 1 teaspoon ground chile de arbol.
Reprinted with permission from "The Modern Larder: From Anchovies to Yuzu, a Guide to Artful and Attainable Home Cooking" by Michelle McKenzie. Photographs by Rick Poon. Copyright © 2021. Published by Roost Books.