Yams are a delicious, highly nutritious food, but they often get swept aside by sweet potatoes. Contrary to popular belief, yams and sweet potatoes are not interchangeable in conversation or in cooking. They are two distinct vegetables. In fact, yams are not even related to the sweet potato at all.
Yams are a tropical produce that grows on vines in South American countries. Generally, a yam is sweeter than a sweet potato and looks long and tubular. While they are an extremely versatile vegetable, here are a few basic recipes to get you started on cooking yams.
Mashing yams is the most common recipe because it is so simple. They are hard to mess up, and even if a mistake is made, it can easily be masked with seasonings.
1. Begin by washing, peeling, and dicing however many yams that you will be using.
2. Boil them in water until they become tender, just as when cooking traditional mashed potatoes.
3. When the yams can be pierced easily with a fork, drain the water.
4. Using a potato masher (or a large fork or spoon), mash the yams. Add a bit of butter to obtain a smoother consistency. 1/3 cup usually works for 5-6 yams. If desired, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. Nearly any flavor can accommodate the yams, but these are the tried and true spices.
5. After the yams have been mashed, buttered, and seasoned, add a splash of low fat milk. It is extremely important that the milk is added last. If it is added when the yams are still extremely hot, the milk will curdle and the yams will not be nearly as smooth or satisfying.
This recipe is so popular for cooking yams because it is almost identical to cooking mashed potatoes. The only slight difference is the seasonings used, but that is mainly a judgment call. Cinnamon and nutmeg compliment the flavor of the yam, but feel free to experiment to find your own signature taste.
The baked yams recipe follows the same premise as the mashed yams recipe. It is essentially the same method used for traditional baking potatoes.
1. Wash the skins of the yams thoroughly.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Prick the skins with a fork or knife to allow steam to escape while baking. Without this outlet, the yam can explode.
4. Allow the yams for 40-45 minutes. Let them sit for several minutes before eating them as they will be extremely hot.
5. Prepare the yams with some butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
FRENCH FRIED YAMS
While yams are different from potatoes, people tend to gravitate toward traditional potato recipes for the tropical fruit. We have covered mashed yams and baked yams. We cannot forget French fried yams. The recipe for yams is slightly altered to create a healthier alternative that is sweet, crisp, and satisfying.
1. Preheat the oven for 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash and peel the yams. Carefully cut them into even strips. If one is accessible to you, use a French fry cutter.
3. Place the yam strips in a large plastic bag. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and olive oil to the bag. Shake as vigorously as possible without damaging the strips.
4. Continue adding the cinnamon, nutmeg, and olive oil until the yams are thoroughly covered.
5. Spread the yam strips on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
6. They are finished cooking when the yams are brown on the outside but tender on the inside.
Unlike regular French fries, ketchup does not go very well with French fried yams. Try a very light ranch sauce or a cucumber dressing. When it comes to experimenting in the kitchen, there is no right or wrong.