…I say yam! There’s so much confusion about which one is which, I’m not sure anyone truly knows the difference anymore, or that the difference much matters. Part of the confusion is that both tubers come in different shapes, sizes and colors, and often look very similar in their diversity.
So whether I’m right or wrong, the tuber I call a yam is misshaped and gnarly with a dark red skin. I always pick the ones that are about the size of my fist because I think they’re sweeter and less fibrous than their bigger kin.
And I hate to be a myth buster, but I don’t think sweet potatoes and yams are better or worse for you than russets. Sure russets are higher in calories and carbs, but lower in sugar. So in the end, it’s what we dress the tubers with that contribute most of the fat and calories … you know, butter, sour cream and bacon!
It’s no secret I’m a proponent of grilling over charcoal and wood, instead of gas. My challenge used to be that I would build a beautiful fire, grill chicken, fish or burgers and then waste the glowing embers. So now, whenever I fire up the grill, I always have secondary meat and vegetables to grill, often for the whole week. Yams are one of my favorites.
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6 to 8 yams
Spanish olive oil, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Build a charcoal or wood fire in your grill and wait until the fire fades away to yield red-hot embers. Place yams around the perimeter of the grill, turning occasionally, for about an hour. The skin will get charred, which is preferred. Allow the yams to cool, then place on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for up to 5 days.
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Using a wet, serrated knife, cut each yam in half lengthwise, then into wedges of any thickness you choose. The water will discourage the starch from sticking to the knife blade, which will yield cleaner, smoother cuts.
On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper. Next arrange the yams, spaced apart, on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully flip over and roast another 10 minutes. The roasting time will vary based on how thick or thin you cut the wedges, and on how crispy you like them.
Transfer hot yams to a mixing bowl and season to taste with salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, chili flakes, lemon juice or anything you like.
Note: Look for brands of olive oil with a packing date. It’s usually stamped in the lower corner of the back label. I pay more attention to the packing date (anything within 6 to 9 months of purchase is great) more than whether it’s extra virgin, virgin or just olive oil.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
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