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When I hear the words “comfort food,” what comes to mind is usually a dish that has been created lovingly, with care—which is to say, not very quickly. I think about casseroles and other baked fare, pies with homemade crust, that sort of thing. To me, a comfort food dish is one that’s something of a project, and the final results feel all the sweeter and more meaningful because time has been spent.
But why, really, should comfort food have to be laborious? Sure, there’s something to be said for lasagnas and enchiladas and other dishes that do require time and attention, but some of the speediest dishes can be mighty comforting, too (pasta with sautéed greens, a bowl of stir fried rice, noodle soup). Lately, I’m expanding my idea of comfort food to include these kinds of quick, nourishing homemade meals, and I’m also rethinking how I approach the more traditional comfort food classics, considering ways in which I might make them just a little more efficient.
One way, of course, is to pair homemade components with a couple of handy, store-bought items. And that’s the trick underlying these hearty, spicy vegan sweet potato chili fries. I love the idea of chili fries, but it’s not often that I have the energy to prepare a pot of bean chili from scratch, crispy fries, and a vegan cheese sauce; it seems, honestly, like too many steps.
Here, use of pre-made vegan chili and a quick and easy blender sauce for the “cheesy” topping ensures that the fries come together without too much fuss. As soon as your fries are done getting crispy in the oven, you can assemble them quickly and serve them to your hungry friends. To make the process even faster, you can prepare the queso sauce up to three days in advance.
White potatoes are the traditional base for chili fries, and if that’s your thing, feel free to use four medium-sized russet potatoes in place of the sweet potatoes here. I personally love the sweet potato/chili combination: it’s a riff on my favorite vegan chili recipe (black beans and sweet potato), and the sweetness of the potatoes stands up really nicely to the savoriness and spice of the chili itself.
- 4 medium sized sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed and cut into matchsticks or batons
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more to taste)
- 15 ounces can vegan bean chili (spicy, medium, or mild)
- 1 batch truly amazing cashew queso sauce (https://food52.com/recipes/38007-truly-amazing-cashew-queso-sauce)
- Pickled jalapenos, diced red or white onion, chopped green onion tops, avocado slices, fresh cilantro (optional, for topping)