I’ve said how much I enjoy Julia Turshen’s cookbook Small Victories, because it’s what I like to cook – simple, unfussy but delicious recipes. (I posted her apple and toasted oat muffins as well as her parmesan soup with tiny pasta and peas recently.) I also made her roasted pork loin with herbs and cream cheese, and then these sweet potatoes that were so good, I decided to share the recipe even without a good picture. I changed the recipe a bit by using bacon instead of pancetta and by peeling the sweet potatoes, and it was absolutely delicious. As a matter of fact, once the Little Prince agreed to “have a bite to be polite”, he decided that he now likes sweet potatoes! Small victory indeed. And in the original notes to the recipe, I love how Julia Turshen makes it clear that in order to properly caramelize onions, it takes time – at least 45 minutes. Too many recipes gloss over that step and tell you it’ll be done in 10 minutes, but that’s a lie!
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice (I peeled mine)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional, I didn’t use them)
4 oz. pancetta, finely diced (I used bacon)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Preheat your oven to 425 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes (if using), and toss everything together. Roast the sweet potatoes, stirring a couple of times, until tender and browned, about 45 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta, stirring, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a bowl and set aside.
Add the sliced onion to the skillet (add a little olive oil if there’s not enough fat in the pan – it will depend on how much fat is in the pancetta, so trust your instincts here). Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the onion, stirring now and then, until the onion has collapsed and is very soft and browned in spots, about 45 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Add the reserved pancetta and sweet potatoes to the skillet and stir everything together. Serve warm.