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New Orleans Seafood Cookbook
by Ralph Brennan
Sweet potatoes are most familiar as a "candied" vegetable, but they make for other tasty side dishes as well. In this version, they share company with red onion, olive oil, spices and pancetta, the Italian bacon that is not smoked, but cured in seasonings. The result is a confluence of sweet, savory and spicy flavors.
This serves as a good side dish for simply prepared seafood or meats, such as sauteed fish or roasted chicken.
For about 7 1/2 cups or 6 to 8 side-dish servings


• 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch slices and slices cut in 1/4-inch cubes
• 1 medium-sized red onion (about 12 ounces), peeled, quartered and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 8 cups (about 3 1/2 pounds) chopped raw sweet potatoes (1/2-inch pieces)
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a heavy 12-inch saute pan, preferably non-stick, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for one minute. Add the pancetta and saute until it just begins to brown, about six minutes, stirring fairly often.

2. Add the red onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to soften, two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the kosher salt, ginger, nutmeg, and the black and cayenne peppers.

3. Add the sweet potatoes to the pan, stirring well. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom clean as you stir. If not using a non-stick pan, at this point you may need to add a little more oil if the mixture is sticking excessively.

4. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the butter and continue cooking until the butter is fully melted and blended into the hash browns, one to two minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Serving Suggestion: The sweet-potato hash browns may be served immediately or prepared up to one hour in advance and set aside at room temperature. For serving, reheat on the stove top over medium heat.

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