Monday, March 18, 2013

Baked Sweet Potato Fries & Curried Coconut Milk Dip

This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite childhood food memories.  I know I have a lot of them, but if you recall, I was definitely not thin in my younger years.  And a big reason for this was my love affair with food of the fast and junk varieties, particularly french fries.  You wanted me to do my homework or mow the lawn?  Promise me french fries and you wouldn't have to ask twice.

Alas, as much as it made my Mother happy to be able to successfully coerce me into obedience and respect for authority, I'm sure she also was concerned with my desire for eating out at McDonald's on a daily basis as well as my growing waistline.  So, clever as she was, she would make fries of her own from time to time to satisfy my cravings, but she made them from sweet potato, baked them in the oven, and served them up with an extra special curried mayo dipping sauce.  Being a Mama's boy, I would tell her that they were better than regular french fries.  But I wasn't just kissing up:  I really meant it.

We only got to have them every once and a while, so it truly was special.  She would always involve my siblings and I when making them, from tossing the sweet potato fries in oil, sprinkling the seasonings on them before baking, or mixing up the dipping sauce.  And that sauce - man, it was so good.  If my Mother made the mistake of finishing the sauce before the fries were done, my brother and I would sneakily take turns dipping the uncooked fries in it and scarfing it down.

So in tipping my hat to that memory, it's not a surprise that the sauce in today's recipe is also pretty stellar.  It actually happened by mistake - I had originally intended to use tahini, but having some leftover coconut milk, I decided on a whim to use that instead to whip up a quick dipping sauce for a test batch of baked sweet potato fries.  And when all the fries were gone, but I was literally drinking the rest of the sauce like a shot, I knew I had a winner.   A simple, satisfying, and amazingly flavorful unexpected result.

I love when that happens.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with a Spicy Curried Coconut Milk Dip
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Baking Time: 25-30 minutes
Yield:  about 4 servings

1 lb.  sweet potatoes (about 4 small ones)
scant 1/8 c oil
salt & pepper

1/4 c full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sriracha
salt, to taste

What you need:  large mixing bowl, baking pan, foil, cooling rack, tongs, whisk

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
2.  Peel and chop sweet potatoes into fries.  I started by slicing them in half lengthwise and then slicing each half into long strips and then slicing those in half.  Your aim is for them all to be approximately the same size and thickness so they cook evenly.  For the photo, I used three different varieties: Japanese Kotobuki (pale yellow), Garnet (orange), and Okinawan (purple).
3.  In a large mixing bowl, toss the uncooked fries with oil until well coated and season with salt and pepper.  Choose an oil with a high smoke point that can withstand high heat, like refined coconut, canola, or sunflower.
4.  Line the baking pan with foil and place the cooling rack in the center.  Arrange the fries on the rack, spacing them about 1" apart, taking care not to crowd them.  If all fries will not fit on one baking pan, I would suggest baking each batch in succession rather than simultaneously.   Your fries will be crispier for it.
5.  Bake for 15 minutes and then remove from oven to flip each fry using tongs.  Replace in oven and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes.  You may notice some blackening of the tips and edges in addition to 'puffing' of the exterior of each fry as they bake, especially in the final minutes - totally normal and totally tasty.
6.  Fresh from the oven, they may not feel very crispy, but as they cool, the exterior of each fry will firm up.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
7.  Meanwhile, in a bowl combine all dip ingredients except salt.  Whisk until well combined, and then salt to taste if you'd like.  And if spicier is better for you, feel free to take the amount of sriracha as a suggestion - you may want to also up your sweetener to maintain the balance.  And if on the flip side, spicy is not your thing, feel free to omit the sriracha altogether.  Closer to room temperature it will have a creamy dressing consistency, but if you refrigerate it, it will be like a whipped mayo.

Beautiful, vibrant ingredients.

Baking my colors... I can then eat them.  Note the caramelization - yum.

Sauce whips up in seconds.

I used a variety of sweet potatoes here, because I'm a fan of diversity and options.  And while the rich orange garnet and jewel sweet potatoes are usual suspects when it comes to fries, whether fried or baked, I actually found that starchier, less creamy varieties, like the Hannah, Kotobuki, or Okinawan actually turn out better when baked.  They tended to crisp and firm up nicely on the outside while remaining tender and moist on the inside, whereas the garnet and jewel sweet potato fries came out more flimsy and tended to overcook more quickly.  And while we're on the topic of texture, it's always good to remember that baked fries are not fried fries.  So while both are delicious, they will not be equivalent.  So do your best to not place that expectation on them.  Who knows, you may end up like me and discover that you like baked fries better. [wink]

And there you have my third contribution to 5-Ingredient Mondays hosted by the ever lovely Iris Higgins over at The Daily Dietribe - a weekly event devoted to simple, easy to make, delicious gluten-free foods. If you haven't had an opportunity to visit her beautiful little gluten-free, allergen-friendly, wisdom-keeping spot on the internet, today would be perfect since this post is also featured there as a guest post. [happy dance]  It's deeply humbling and truly an honor and a privilege for her to feature me on her blog - I am such a fan of hers.  So please do me a favor, and do yourself a favor in the process, and check it out.

You'll become a fan, too.

So good you may find it ridiculous.

To see my previous 5-Ingredient Mondays, here are the links:

And in case you missed the links in the text or the links in the sidebar [=>] here's one more link to one of the most cleverly named blogs on the interwebs:

Wishing you a bountiful and blessed week!


  1. Jonathan, you make me feel so much cooler than I am. :) Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe on my blog. Much love!

    1. You are cool, Iris! Thank you for the opportunity and much love right back at you!


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