History Lesson, with Sweet Potato Fries
We went to a cocktail party in an antebellum mansion-museum this week. It’s not clear we were supposed to be there, but when you are invited to an event by accident and it sounds like there will be finger food and an open bar, you say yes. You say yes because it will be a blast until you overhear Scott say something about Metallica to a nice garden club lady. When that happens, you take 35 more seconds with the Fritos and pimento cheese dip, and you get the hell out of there.
I learned a lot about Huntsville before dragging Captain Inappropriate through the side door. (He spent his 35 seconds with the bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.) For example, Huntsville was founded by LeRoy Pope but later renamed for a pioneer named Hunt, who was universally agreed to be less of a tool than LeRoy. Apparently, LeRoy had been naming everything in town after his distant British cousin, the poet Alexander Pope, which started to really piss people off. This is not surprising, considering that Alexander Pope wrote poems with really boring titles. (Lines By A Person of Quality? Fail.) The only thing Alexander Pope has going for him is that you will always win at charades if you pull out some Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness.
Huntsville is also famous for a cow named Lily Flagg. Lily Flagg set a world record by producing more than her body weight in butter in 1892. Gross, Huntsville.
In the 1930s, the good people of Huntsville started digging up and selling watercress. For a while, Huntsville was called The Watercress Capital of The World. Then someone who had actually gone to high school pointed out that an economy based on a gnarly lettuce was okay, but an economy based on, say, manufacturing cars or rockets would be better. So after World War II, Huntsville tried manufacturing the Keller automobile. That seems to have been a bust because Huntsville made a total of 18 cars before closing the plant. They tried rockets and spaceships next, and that worked better until a few months ago, when the space program ended. So it’s possible that sometime soon, most of the recipes in this blog will be some variation of a watercress salad.
Basically, like any awesome town, Huntsville has had some highs and lows. This brings us to my personal highs and lows from this week, which I have put on a grid like New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, which uses a despicable/brilliant and highbrow/lowbrow axis as “a deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies.”
*Scott says Metallica should be in the top right quadrant. I am holding out until we agree on the rule that you can’t say the word “Metallica” at cocktail parties to any woman who is over the age of 50 and is wearing pearls.
**For a non-Onion article about an Alabama Oktoberfest finally allowing beer (but not in an open container), click here.
***This is what a field of blooming cotton looks like:
Today’s recipe is somewhere on the right side of the chart next to “Brilliant.” Sweet potatoes are in season now, and these sweet potato french fries were the best I have had in my life. They take less than 5 minutes to prepare and then you just leave them in the oven for 30 minutes or so. They will melt in your mouth, and they’re not even really fried– they’re just roasted with some olive oil and spices.
The following recipe is adapted from the Food Renegade recipe for Savory Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle & Cilantro Mayo. Mayo is in the bottom left-hand quadrant of my world, so we ate our fries with a peanut dipping sauce, which we made by combining 1 can of diced pineapple (with its juice), 1/4 cup peanut butter, 3 bulbs+shoots of green onion, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and a little less than 1/4 c. soy sauce in the blender. (I put in 1/8 c. soy sauce to start, and slowly added more as desired.)
The sweet potato fries were a huge hit from start to finish.
Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
2 sweet potatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
1 tsp. fresh sage
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash potatoes. Leaving skin on, cut into wedges and slices about 1/2 inch thick and as long as you like. Mince the garlic and fresh herbs. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss the potatoes to coat (or combine in a tupperware container with a lid and shake it around.)
Roast potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet for at least 20 minutes. We took ours out at about 25 minutes, because a fork went through smoothly and we wanted them crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. If you like them crispier, leave them in longer.