Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Horseradish Aioli / by Chelsea Zwieg

Something that will always be funny to me is the trend of putting recipe names in quotes, signaling to the reader that what they're about to read and eat bears no actual resemblance to the title in question. A strawberry "milkshake" is really a kale and strawberry smoothie and a chocolate "cake" is really mashed up avocado and black beans molded into a cake pan. The method and ingredients are changed so much that the actual outcome of the recipe is a whole other creature, that really should have dropped the "milkshake" and "cake" badge about five substitutions in. The number one victim in this quotation bastardization is "fries".

I can not tell you the number of times I have read a recipe for sweet potato "fries", only to discover that it's sliced up sweet potatoes thrown on a pan and roasted in the oven until they're cooked and mushy. Those aren't fries, those are baked potatoes. Call it what it is.  

The obvious solution to my problem would have been to heat up a giant pot of oil and actually fry my sweet potatoes. But I'm a wimp. And a klutz. The thought of sitting down to a plate of sweet potato fries with third degree burns and a permanently oil splattered stove negates any real desire to eat what is arguably one of my favorite foods. So I continued in my noble quest to make baked sweet potatoes that were fries, not "fries". 

Fries are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and do not bend when you dip them. The secret to crispy baked sweet potato fries has three parts.

1) CUT: The fries need to be cut thin and evenly. If they get thicker than 1/4 inch they will be mushy every time. They also need to be uniform. Otherwise you end up with a few tiny crispy fries, a handful of big soggy ones and a bunch of little burnt ends. It takes time, but it's worth it. 

2) SOAK: This is key, key, key. Once you have cut your fries, let them soak in a bowl of cold water for at least an hour, the longer the better. This pulls the excess starch out of the potatoes and gets rid of the sugars that keep them from crisping. Just ask Mr. Bobby Flay

3) STARCH: After the fries are done soaking, they get a good shake with cornstarch. It's not a lot, just enough to coat the outside. This keeps them crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. 

I paired these with a mustard-y horseradish aioli that takes a minute to make and uses ingredients that are probably already in your fridge. The beauty of these is that once you master the method, you can really get creative. You can toss them with any spices you have on hand and change up the dipping sauce to match. They would be great tossed with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg and served with a cinnamon-yogurt dip. Or you could coat them garlic salt and parmesan cheese. Anything goes. 

And the best part? You can say that you ate fries for dinner, not "fries". And you can say it without having to get out the burn cream or spend the night scrubbing grease stains off your stove, floor, shirt and face. Win, win, win. 

Sweet Potato Fries 

Serves 4

A few notes:  Make sure to use an oil with a high smoke point to coat your fries. I used coconut oil but grapeseed or soybean oil will work well too. Just make sure not to use olive oil. It has the lowest smoke point and will burn long before the fries are finished. Vegetable and canola oil have a high enough smoke point, but they will not provide as much flavor. Also, even though the fries get a coat of oil, do not skip spraying the foiled pans with non-stick spray. Sneaky-lazy me skipped this step one time and every single fry stuck to the foil. 

Ingredients |

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. oil (see note above)
  • 1 tbsp. spices ( For these I used 1/2 tbsp. chipotle powder and 1/2 tbsp. seasoned pepper) 

Instructions 

  • Peel potatoes and cut into matchsticks, no thicker than 1/4 inch. Submerge potatoes in a bowl of cold water and let sit for at least 1 hour
  • Preheat oven to 425. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray 
  •  Drain potatoes and dry with a paper towel. Place potatoes in a large ziploc bag and add cornstarch. Leave the bag full of air, seal and shake so that the potatoes get a thin, even coating of cornstarch. Depending on the size of your potatoes you may not need the full tbsp. I add the cornstarch in small amounts until the potatoes are just dusted. They should not be white, just a light coating that you need to look closely to see
  • Add the oil to the bag and shake again, until fries are evenly coated. Again, add this in small amounts to account for difference in potato size. They should not be drenched, just a light coat of oil. Add the spices and shake one final time
  • Pour fries onto prepared baking sheets and spread into an even later. Make sure that no fries are overlapping or touching each other. The more space they have, the better they crisp
  • Bake for 15 minutes, remove pans from oven and flip fries with a spatula. Switch the pans so that the one that was on the bottom rack is now on the top. Bake for 15 more minutes. At this point, flip the fries again and bake in 5 minute increments until they are crispy as you would like. Some batches have only needed 5 more minutes and some have needed 15, depending on the potatoes I used

Horseradish Aioli 

Ingredients 

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup whole grain mustard 
  • 1/4 cup horseradish 
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice

Instructions 

  • Whisk mayo, mustard and horseradish together
  • Add lime juice until the sauce is a dippable consistency (dippable is a word right? Spell check disagrees...)