Okay so, I’m going to kick off today’s post with a little controversy because that’s the kind of hard-hitting, dangerous site Rhubarb & Cod is. I mean, listen to the name. Tough, right?! Anyway, here is my potentially controversial thought: Sweet potatoes shouldn’t be fries. Shock! Gasp! Yes, I really did just say that. I think sweet potatoes are inherently ill-suited to the higher calling that is being a french fry. They have too much moisture, they’re too prone to burning, and finally, they just don’t taste right. But that’s not to say I’ve turned my back on the tuber altogether. I mean, obviously, I haven’t. Today’s recipe is Smoked Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans and Honey Bonnet Butter. The sweet potato can be many many things, just not french fries.
How does this make you feel? Confused? Vindicated? Conflicted? If you’re pro-SPF (amazing acronym, btw) please know I didn’t make this decision lightly. I came to it after much deliberation and many MANY plates (platters) of sweet potato fries. At the end of my important (not really) extensive research, I decided that never again would the fries disappoint me. So, I’ve put my sweet-potato-fry-days firmly in the rearview mirror. And yes, in case you were wondering, this recipe is dead to me. But who’s to say you wouldn’t enjoy it…
I generally don’t like making food-related declarations because I don’t like to sway people’s food decisions. I’m particularly against hard and fast food rules because I think eating should be about opening up possibility rather than limiting one’s scope. So, please take my stance on sweet potato fries as nothing more than my opinion. There is nothing wrong with you enjoying sweet potato fries if you enjoy them. Listen, I don’t particularly like gravy on my fries – I’m a complete anomaly. I am in no way the poster child for good taste. But having said that, you should totally make these Smoked Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans and Honey Bonnet Butter.
Since my break with the vibrant fries, I’ve found myself rediscovering the sweet potato. The other day, I returned to my childhood by wrapping up sweet potato medallions in tin foil and throwing them on the BBQ. My mom always did that and I always loved it, but I had never done it for myself. It was when I was savoring the nostalgic potatoes, that I remembered how much sweet potatoes love fire. How the juices from the sweet potato caramelize under extreme heat and form a sort of sweet, slightly bitter syrup and how the skin gives way to a texturally-compelling paper-thin mess. And then I thought back to the whole smoked sweet potato I’d eaten at Gitano in Tulum earlier this year. Why hadn’t tried doing that too?
So, after I finished overthinking fire-kissed sweet potatoes in painfully pretentious detail, I set to work formulating the recipe for these Smoked Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans & Honey Bonnet Butter. And I’m SO glad I did. These potatoes eat like a meal and are satisfying like no other root vegetable I’ve encountered. In other words, they destroy sweet potato fries. Like, there’s no competition. In fact, it’s unfair to pit them against each other because, dude, that’s not a fair fight.
So, what makes these Smoked Sweet Potatoes so great? Well, the low, slow smoker method results in gooey, flaky, smoky potatoes with a shattering skin that effortlessly pulls away from the flesh. Also, the smoking process makes the interior of these puppies almost meaty with a hint of burnt marshmallow. The black beans bring the bulk to make these potatoes a meal and the Honey Bonnet Butter? Well, if there ever was a condiment that deserved its own paragraph, it’s this Honey Bonnet Butter.
And here is it’s paragraph. This Honey Bonnet Butter is a much spicier version of the honey butter I made for these scones a while back. I liked the concept of adding something rich and sweet to my sweet potatoes as a way of paying homage to the kitschy marshmallows that have graced many a sweet potato casserole. But I didn’t want to add actual marshmallows, so I thought the honey butter might fit the bill. But since black beans have their own kind of sweetness and queso fresco isn’t a particularly briny cheese, I thought I needed to add something different to the flavor profile. And, in what shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, I choose heat. So, in went fine ribbons of scotch bonnet pepper.
So, that’s the deal with these Smoked Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans and Honey Bonnet Butter. They’re sweet, smoky, spicy and the perfect backyard vegetarian meal, which is hard to come by during BBQ season. Oh! And one more thing, they’re definitely not sweet potato fries, which from where I’m standing is a very good thing.
Smoked Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans & Honey Bonnet Butter
- 4 large sweet potatoes scrubbed
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey divided
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 red onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 jalapeños halved and sliced
- 1/2 cup beer
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 cup queso freso crumbled
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- Set your smoker to its high setting and close the lid. Let preheat for 10 minutes. Place the sweet potatoes in the smoker and smoke them on high for 45 minutes. Once the 45 minutes has passed, flip the sweet potatoes and set your smoker to it's lowest possible temperature and close the lid. Let the sweet potatoes smoke for 30 minutes more.
- While the sweet potatoes are smoking ,prepare the butter and the black beans. Place the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 1/4 cup of the honey, half of the salt and the scotch bonnet pepper to the mixer. Mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Transfer the butter to a ramekin and smooth out the surface. Cover the butter and transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
- When there is only 25 minutes left on the sweet potatoes' cook time, make the black beans. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until just translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beans, jalapeños, beer, oregano, cumin and the remaining salt. Give the mixture a brief stir and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes or until the moisture is mostly absorbed.
- When the sweet potatoes are very tender, take them off of the smoker and transfer them to a plate. Make an incision on top of each of the sweet potatoes to form a pocket. Spoon the black beans into each sweet potato and top with a generous pat of the honey bonnet butter. Sprinkle the potatoes with queso fresco and fresh cilantro.
- Serve the sweet potatoes immediately with a cold beer and sunny skies.