A crispy platter of deep-fried yam matchsticks with a hearty dollop of spicy mayo is ultimate pub comfort food. I wanted to recreate that experience at home, with baking instead of frying, but it took a good many attempts to perfect a method that would yield wonderfully crisp, rather than soggy, yam fries.
Here are my secrets to perfection. Ready?
The first and most important key is to give the fries plenty of space on the baking sheet. If you just dump them on and shake the pan to kinda spread them out, you will get sog. There can be no overlap, no sides touching – the fries need to have dry, hot air circulating around each one or else they’ll start to steam and won’t crisp. Take the time to lay them down one at a time with 1/2 inch of space between them.
My second secret is a very hot oven. I use at least 450 degrees, and turn on the convection. This functions to crisp up the surface quickly.
The final secret is dusting the yams with flour before seasoning. The starchy flour absorbs any surface moisture from the fries, giving them a better shot at crispy.
Now here’s how to easily break down a yam (or potato) into fries.
First cut a slice off one end to create a flat, stable base. A sharp chef’s knife on a rock hard, wobbly yam is asking for trouble. Lay the yam on it’s flat side, then slice into 1/4 inch slices.
Stack about two slices at a time, and cut lengthwise into strips of equal size (for even cooking). Ta da!
Note that the thinner the strips, the crisper the fries will be. You can see that mine weren’t very thin here… I could’ve done better.
So what’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams anyway? The names are not only used pretty interchangeably, but also inaccurately.
In North America, we have two varieties of sweet potatoes – one that is tan on the outside with a golden interior, and is somewhat starchy – which we commonly (and correctly) label a “sweet potato”. Then there’s a second type of sweet potato, with a darker, reddish skin and a deep orange interior, which we mistakenly dub a “yam”, but is also still another kind of sweet potato.
Actual yams are a tuber commonly eaten in South America. They’ve got a knobby exterior and a white, starchy interior that isn’t actually sweet. You’d be hard-pressed to locate a true yam around here outside of specialty markets.
And yes, these should therefore be called “Crisp Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Aioli”. But they’re not.
*I just re-read this post and snored. It’s all business in the front with no party in the back! I usually try to inject a little more of my life into my posts. But you see, I have something very big (actually, quite small at present…) coming down the pipelines that is taking all my energy. Very literally. Have I just given myself away???
But I know my ditziness amuses you so I thought you’d like to know that I was petting the dog under my desk for 5 minutes the other day before I realized it was just my fuzzy slipper…
Crisp Yam Fries with Chipotle Aioli
- 1 1/2 lbs yam this was one giant yam for me, cut into matchsticks
- 1-2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- sea salt
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tsp minced chipotle in adobo sauce or 1/2-1 tsp chipotle powder
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Place yam matchsticks in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour, tossing until evenly coating and adding up to one tablespoon more if needed.
- Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with spices and a good pinch of sea salt. Toss until fries are evenly coated.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread fries out in a SINGLE LAYER (no overlap whatsoever, or they will steam and get soggy). You will probably need 2 baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip fries (and rotate baking sheets if using more than 1). Bake 10 minutes more, or until fries are crisp and tender in the middles.
- Meanwhile, make Chipotle Aioli by whisking 1/3 cup mayonnaise with minced chipotle with sauce. Add more to taste, if you like it spicier!