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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.

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love my sweet potato fries recipe — but this one looks better! So I’ll try it, and for that you are forgiven for dissing mayo — one of my treasured gifts from Scott is my ‘Cinqo de Mayo’ t-shirt with the five mayonnaise pots…

    October 2, 2011
  2. Hi everyone– I initially forgot to list the soy sauce as an ingredient in the peanut sauce, but have corrected the error. (By the by, the peanut sauce is excellent on broccoli and chicken that has been marinated in soy sauce and a little vegetable oil.)

    And hi, Cindy– what an awesome shirt! I WISH I loved mayo. Something about the consistency just weirds me out. The only thing I really use it for is deviled eggs, which I tend to make a few times a month from May-July.

    Does your sweet potato fries recipe call for different ingredients? What do you think you might change about this one that i posted?

    October 2, 2011
  3. Kate #

    Watercress is amazing and you know it!

    October 3, 2011
    • Watercress IS amazing, Kate, I agree. But I had an incident at work last year where I ate some small snails that were on the watercress in the salad bar. Now I worry about eating watercress in public, because I look like a nut-job as I peer under each and ever leaf for baby snails.

      October 3, 2011
      • Kate #

        Did you see the thing about the giant snails in Miami? It was so disgusting!!

        October 6, 2011
  4. thewobblingoblins #

    Love the chart, love watercress, and love sweet potato french fries. Also, if you want to know anything at all about Helen Keller, I’m working with a production company on a documentary about her. Fun facts galore!! Here’s a good one –

    October 3, 2011
    • Oh THANK you for this-I cannot wait to read this FBI file tonight. (I am installing photoshop (finally) so adobe is down temporarily). I was obsessed with her when I was a kid. Obsessed–so I am jealous that you are working on a documentary about her. If you ever need me to check out anything in person down here for you, let me know. It would be a good excuse for a field trip. And you best tell us where we can see this movie when it’s done!

      October 3, 2011
  5. What a great post! I adore sweet potato fries, and what a fun way to introduce them. The chart is too funny. What a cutie you have to help you in the kitchen, as well!

    October 3, 2011
    • Hi Julie! She is indeed fun in the kitchen, that’s for sure, but I should do more baking of your (amazing looking) recipes and less cooking with onions and garlic and other things dogs are allergic to– she is only 8 months old, and THREE TIMES she has eaten something bad, like onions or garlic or mushrooms (see the Bama Tomato post–ugh.) She’s a trooper, though! The thing I made with the pecans I mentioned was a zucchini bread pudding– it was amazing, and I may put it up here soon after I give it another shot.

      October 3, 2011
  6. Nikki #

    To be fair to Scott he can only name Metallica songs with acapella arrangements. To be equally fair to you he was probably a half glass of wine from breaking out “grundy county auction”. departure seems the only logical solution.

    October 4, 2011

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