Author Notes: If you’re looking for a new twist on sweet potatoes, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. It was a real eye opener to me. I had always been one to kind of sneer at savory uses of vanilla, thinking it best to leave well enough alone and let vanilla work its magic in sweets. But after stumbling across a recipe for Curried Duck with Vanilla in the Washington Post from Andreas Viestad, who noted that "when the sweet flavors of vanilla interact with curry powder, both ingredients are transformed,” I was wholly intrigued. As much as I love duck, I decided to take a much simpler approach and try out this flavor combination with roasted sweet potatoes and shallots. I’m a sucker for sweet potatoes this time of year, and I thought they’d play well with the sweet-spicy notes of the vanilla and curry. To round out the flavors, I tossed the sweet potatoes with nutty browned butter and fresh thyme. The smell of them roasting was intoxicating, and the taste even more so. The flavors are familiar yet exotic -- quietly comforting yet attention grabbing. I’ll be making this dish a lot this holiday season -- and needless to say, I’m happy to have been proven so wrong about vanilla. For a simple variation, throw in a few handfuls of spinach before serving, letting the residual heat wilt the leaves. - EmilyC
Food52 Review: Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that vanilla and curry would be such a lovely pair. EmilyC has created a magical combination -- the aroma when the curry, vanilla, and thyme hit the browned butter is so good it could be marketed. The flavors complement the natural sugars in the roasted sweet potatoes without entering into saccharine territory. I served it once with roast chicken and once with pork -- yes, I've made it twice already! If you are a fan of sweet potatoes this dish definitely deserves a spot on your table. - hardlikearmour
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon mild (sweet) curry powder
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 vanilla bean (about 3 inches in length), split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns brown and nutty, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the curry powder, seeds from vanilla bean, and thyme to the browned butter. Mix well, then add the sweet potatoes and shallots, tossing well so they're evenly coated with the browned butter. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Transfer to a roasting pan, large enough that the sweet potatoes and shallots are in a single layer. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and caramelized. After about 15 to 20 minutes, toss the potatoes with a spatula to make sure they’re coated evenly with the browned butter. Remove from the oven and serve warm.