Meet Jess O'Toole, the writer and photographer behind the stunning food blog La Domestique. Every Tuesday on her blog, Jess shares her ten favorite ways to cook with her ingredient of the week. In this column, Jess expands on one of those ten techniques.
This week: You've heard of honey-baked ham -- Jess tries her hand at coffee-baked yam.
Photos by Jessica O'Toole
This week at La Domestique is dedicated to the coffee bean. Good for more than your morning cup of joe, coffee can be used in cooking and baking in both savory and sweet applications. One of my favorite ways to cook with coffee beans is a technique for coffee-baked vegetables I came across in the January issue of Food & Wine magazine. Reading the article, An Intimate Look at the Creative Life of Chefs, I was intrigued by a recipe for Coffee-Baked Squash with Crème Fraîche. Chefs René Redzepi of Noma and Daniel Patterson of Coi (whom the magazine refers to as "two of the world’s best chefs") spend a weekend developing new recipes with seasonal ingredients. While brewing his morning espresso, Chef Patterson gets the idea to roast delicata squash buried in coffee beans for a deep, earthy flavor and subtle scent of freshly brewed coffee.
Cooking in the moment means understanding a method and applying it in a similar but different situation. Unable to find thin-skinned winter squash at the market, I chose a root vegetable with similar texture that would perform well baked in the oven for about an hour. I took the technique and applied it to jewel yams (actually a variety of sweet potato). Following the method in the recipe, I filled a baking pan with an inexpensive bag of coffee beans, nestling in the sweet potatoes. After an hour of roasting, the sweet potatoes collapsed in their skins, piping hot and tender. Cutting them open released a subtle aroma of earth and spice, with just a hint of freshly brewed coffee essence. I chose to complement these notes with a sprinkling of smoked paprika, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. For garnish, crème fraîche contributed a bright tang, lime zest a floral character, and cilantro a fresh, green flavor. Quantities aren’t too important here, so feel free to ad lib based on the spices and herbs in your pantry. My flavor profile was influenced by Mexican and Spanish ingredients, but you could go with curry spice (India), or woodsy rosemary and mascarpone (Italy). With this simple technique of roasting vegetables in coffee, you’re free to cook intuitively while respecting the needs of the ingredients.
Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Spice, Crème Fraîche, Lime & Cilantro
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish
1 pound coffee beans
2 jewel yams (sweet potatoes) of the same size
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch brown sugar
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
As a cocoon for roasting sweet potatoes is just one of the ten ways Jess likes to enjoy coffee. See the other nine: 10 Ways Tuesday: Coffee.
Like this post? See Jess' topic from last week: Winter Grapefruit Salad with Citrus-Ginger Vinaigrette.
Jess writes the blog La Domestique, a site dedicated to cooking in the moment with ingredients from the pantry and garden.
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