Owamni Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Chile Crisp

Maple sugar lends complex sweetness to chef Sean Sherman's mouthwatering chile crisp, which he drizzles over roasted sweet potatoes.

Owamni Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Chile Crisp
Photo: Photo: Heami Lee / FOOD STYLING CHELSEA ZIMMER / PROP STYLING / CHRISTINE KEELY
Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 40 mins
Servings:
8

Growing up, Sean Sherman's Thanksgiving feast at his grandparents' ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota typically included brand-name stuffing and Jell-O molds, plus an occasional Lakota dish such as taniga (intestine soup). Nowadays, the founder and CEO of The Sioux Chef emphasizes Native American cuisine all year long. The original Indigenous diet is "hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy" and delicious, Sherman wrote in his James Beard Award–winning cookbook, The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen.

"We are not trying to re-create the past and what it looked like in 1491," Sherman told me. "We're attempting to bring this food into the modern day and into the future."

When it comes to Thanksgiving, his strategy for detaching the sanitized colonial mythology from the holiday (it wasn't a hunky-dory one-day event) is simple: Encourage people to explore native ingredients in their locality.

"We can look at the world through the Indigenous perspective, as our ancestors did, and understand how to utilize all the plants and animals around us better and really connect with where we have to be to make food taste like where we are," he said. This year, Sherman's nonprofit food lab will prepare Thanksgiving meal kits to help people celebrate Indigenous foods; he'll also work to get those foods into the hands of families in need.

Though fully capable of fancy tweezered dishes, Sherman shared a simple, splendid recipe for roasted sweet potatoes with chile crisp, which he serves at Owamni, the Minneapolis restaurant he co-owns with Dana Thompson. Chiles are native to the Americas, so Sherman cleverly blended dried homegrown chiles with maple sugar to create a wonderful Indigenous take on the cult-favorite Chinese condiment. The result is so good that he's wagering you'll make it year-round.

For his Owamni Maple-Chile Crisp, Sherman blends dried chiles and bathes them in oil along with maple sugar, garlic, and scallions for a mouthwatering chile crisp. Explore chile characteristics and mix them, he suggests. If your dried chiles are brittle rather than leathery and pliable, skip the microwaving step. Easy to make and indigenous in spirit, this rich chile crisp peps up food just like the Sichuan version. Sherman lavishly drizzles it on roasted sweet potatoes. Eaten all over the world, sweet potatoes originated in Central and South America. Owamni in Minneapolis sources sweet potatoes from local tribes. Chef Sherman advises that you seek out what's freshest near you. Roasting time varies with variety and size. — Andrea Nguyen

Ingredients

Owamni Maple-Chile Crisp

  • 30 medium-size chiles de árbol (about 1/2 ounce), stemmed

  • 4 medium chipotle or morita chiles (about 1/2 ounce), stemmed and cut into 2 pieces each

  • 3 medium guajillo chiles (about 1/2 ounce), stemmed and cut into 3 pieces each

  • 1 small ancho chile (about 1/2 ounce), stemmed and cut into 3 pieces

  • 4 medium scallions (about 2 ounces)

  • 2 ½ tablespoons maple sugar

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 2 cups sunflower oil

Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 medium-size (8-ounce) sweet potatoes, scrubbed

  • Kosher salt

Directions

Make the Owamni maple-chile crisp:

  1. Spread half of the chile pieces in a single layer with minimal overlap on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high 45 seconds. (Many of the chiles will puff up; steam usually appears.) Repeat process with remaining half of chiles. Let cool about 5 minutes.

  2. Wearing a pair of disposable gloves, gently press open brittle chiles, shaking out and discarding seeds. Cut seeded chiles into pieces no larger than 3/4 inch using scissors.

  3. Working in 4 batches, place one-fourth of the chile pieces in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Process until chopped, about 4 pulses. (Aim for most pieces to be no larger than 1/4 inch.) Transfer chiles to a 9- x 13-inch baking pan.

  4. Finely chop white and light green scallion parts to measure about 1 tablespoon. Thinly slice dark green scallion parts to measure about 1/4 cup; reserve for sweet potatoes. Add chopped white and light green scallion parts, maple sugar, garlic, and salt to chiles in baking pan; stir until well combined. Season with additional salt to taste for a balanced spicy, sweet, savory finish. (Keep baking pan on the stove or a heatproof surface.)

  5. Pour sunflower oil into a small, heavy saucepan with a lip for easy pouring. Heat oil over medium to 400°F. Remove from heat, and carefully pour hot oil over chile mixture in baking pan; gently shake baking pan to evenly coat chiles. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make the sweet potatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until just tender in center, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Test doneness by inserting a skewer or knife in thickest part of sweet potato; you should have slight resistance at the center.) Let cool slightly, about 15 minutes.

  2. Heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise. Sear sweet potatoes, cut side down, until grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking time using a metal spatula and tongs to create crosshatch grill marks. Transfer to 8 individual plates or a platter, and drizzle with Owamni maple-chile crisp (solids plus oil) as desired. Sprinkle evenly with reserved dark green scallion slices, and garnish lightly with salt.

Make Ahead

Sweet potatoes can be roasted up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before searing. Cooled Owamni maple-chile crisp can be stored in a lidded 24-ounce jar in refrigerator up to 3 months.

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