And it’s not because 95% of what we think are “yams” are not even yams to begin with.
They’re sweet potatoes.
Yams and sweet potatoes are often confused for each other, kind of the way Angelina Jolie and I mistaken for each other because we look and, for the most part, taste the same. However, though we could be twins separated at birth, Angie and I aren’t even the same ethnicity, which is the case for yams and sweet potatoes. Yams are tubers whereas sweet potatoes are some other type of plant that makes them scientifically unrelated.
There’s controversy that comes up this time every year surrounding these two vegetables. Is that orange, naturally sweet, starchy, potato-like vegetable you’re serving truly a yam? Is it actually a sweet potato? What’s the difference, if there is, indeed a difference? Are they, in fact, all sweet potatoes, but the orange-colored ones are called “yams?”
Which one is authentic?
Which one is better?
I never understood these silly questions because the real question — that is, the real question after “Who the hell cares?!” — is “Whatever they are, yams or sweet potatoes, who thought it would be a delicious idea not only to glaze already-sweet starch bombs with more sugar, but to top them off with marshmallows?!”
Probably the same person who invented green bean casserole.
(I actually do know the answers to all these questions and am not as hateful as I seem re: green bean casserole. I’m just making a point.)
I realize that there is a huge faction of people out there who love candied whatever-you-call-thems and wouldn’t dream of their autumn dinner tables without them. My family, too, served some version of candied yams every Thanksgiving. And every Thanksgiving, we’d end up with a virtually untouched Corningware casserole dish of candied yams that would (left)overstay their welcome on the one shelf in the fridge that had enough space for an entire baking dish because what’s worse than sickeningly icky sticky sweet candied yams is sickeningly icky cold and slimy candied yams. Yet, at no point did it occur to any of us to just not serve candied yams. Candied yams are part of the traditional Thanksgiving table, and far be it from us, a Korean family, to not follow an American tradition.
Until I stumbled across a recipe for Thyme-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.
is will be candied yam history.
Garlic Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes
based on a recipe from Epicurious.com
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch-thick rounds (we cut ours 1″ thick, then quartered them to make them easier to eat)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced (we doubled the amount of garlic)
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves, plus 6 thyme sprigs for garnish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (we left this out for no good reason other than “we forgot”)
Preheat oven to 450°F.
In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and toss. Arrange sweet potatoes in single layer on heavyweight rimmed baking sheet or in 13×9-inch baking dish. Place on top rack of oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs.
** TasteSpotting’s note ** If, by some off chance, you have leftover sweet potatoes, they are awesome sauteed with onions and more garlic to make a hash. Throw a couple of poached eggs on top and it’s the perfect brunch the morning after.