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sweet sweet vegetables

Recipe: mirin sweet potatoes

Yes, another orange vegetable. You have to get through your vegetables first before commencing the debauchery that will be Valentine’s Day. Debauchery is next week. This week: vegetables. But I swear this won’t even be like a vegetable. It’s practically candy. I love roasted sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, sweet potato pie, sweet potato mash… But that Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole? Not. A. Fan. Ever on the lookout for great new ways to prepare vegetables, I was immediately drawn to this recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appétit: White Sweet Potatoes with Mirin and Honey.


gold sweet potatoes and purple yams



I didn’t know there were white and gold sweet potatoes. I just grabbed the ones closest to me which happened to be not the sweet potatoes I was supposed to get. Then I was in the Asian grocery store (not the one in Boulder, the one in Broomfield – POM) and I picked up some Okinawa sweet potatoes which I believe are actually yams according to a rule that yams have different colored flesh than the exterior skins. Okinawa sweet potatoes are purple on the inside. I had no idea how it would fare in the recipe, but I wanted to give it a try.

all you need: sweet potatoes, honey, vinegar, oil, mirin, butter, and salt

pierce with a fork



You can either bake the potatoes wrapped in foil for a half hour, or you can nuke them in the microwave for five minutes. I took the five minute option. Don’t forget to pierce them all over with a fork if you choose to nuke the sweet potatoes. Let them steam in a covered bowl for a few minutes to loosen up the skin. I think it’s supposed to facilitate the peeling, but I just used a knife. While the sweet potatoes enjoy their sauna, you can mix the “dressing” made of mirin, honey, vinegar, and salt. Yes, that’s it.

after microwaving, steam in a bowl covered in plastic

mixing the mirin, honey, vinegar, and salt together



Slice the sweet potatoes into 1- to 1.5-inch thick rounds and toss them with the dressing in a bowl. Be gentle so as not to break them apart. Here is where I began to suspect that sweet potatoes were a better option. The purple sweet potatoes (yams) had cracks and were considerably drier than their golden counterparts.

thick slices of sweet potato

toss the slices with the mirin dressing



All during this prep, you should have a cast iron skillet heating up in your oven to 450°F. Now for the exciting part… Please use proper heat protection when you remove the skillet from the oven because burning your hand and then dropping a really hot skillet on your foot would surely ruin your day. Set the skillet on your stove top and pour some vegetable oil into the pan. Carefully swirl it around to coat the base. Then pour the potatoes into the pan. If you try to add them one by one (like I did) they will splatter and make a big mess. If you add them all at once, they won’t make a big mess. Pop the skillet into the oven and roast the potatoes. Flip them over after about 15 minutes and roast a little longer. My purple sweet potatoes got a little brown from the caramelized sauce, but they were still purple on the inside. The gold sweet potatoes turned a vibrant orange.

arrange the pieces in the skillet

flip them once



When the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the pan to a serving platter. Then return to the pan and add a few tablespoons of water. It should sizzle and you should be able to dissolve the caramelized bits with a spoon or spatula. Stir in the butter while the pan is still hot to thicken the sauce, then drizzle it over the sweet potatoes.

pan sauce

sweet potatoes on a platter

pour sauce over the sweet potatoes just before serving



This is a terrific side dish. The edges become crisp and chewy (from the caramelization) while the inside is silky soft. Okay, the insides of the golden sweet potatoes were silky soft. The purple sweet potatoes were more starchy inside and chewy outside. Not sure I’d do this again with the purple sweet potatoes, but it is a definite repeat with the other sweet potato. I’d also be willing to reduce the amount of butter in the sauce. I don’t know that it needs that much because it tasted great when only half of the butter had melted. You’re all probably gasping, “But your blog is use real butter!” Chill out. Have some sweet potato. It’s all good.

very good



Mirin Sweet Potatoes
[print recipe]
from Bon Appétit February 2012

2 large gold or white sweet potatoes (approximately 2 lbs.)
1/2 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
2 tbsps honey
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsps corn oil
2 tbsps water
2 tbsps unsalted butter
coarse sea salt for seasoning (I totally forgot to do this)

Set a well-seasoned 8- to 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven. Heat oven to 450°F. Pierce the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and microwave on high power for 5 minutes. Or you can wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake at 450°F for about 30-35 minutes until tender at the edges, but still hard in the middles. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let them steam for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the mirin, honey, vinegar, and salt together. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into 1- to 1.5-inch rounds. Place the rounds in a bowl and toss them with the mirin sauce. Carefully take the skillet out of the oven (please use proper protective mitts) and pour the oil into the pan. Swirl it around to coat the pan and add the potatoes and mirin all at once. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a flat, single layer in the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the bottoms are caramelized, then flip and bake another 5-7 minutes. Remove the sweet potatoes from the pan to a serving platter. Pour the water into the hot pan and stir it around with a spoon or spatula, scraping off the caramelized bits. Stir in the butter until melted and pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes. Season with salt. Serves 4 as a side dish.

22 nibbles at “sweet sweet vegetables”

  1. itchbay says:

    OMG. This looks so good. I grew up in Louisiana, and sweet potatoes in various forms were a standard at pretty much any large gathering, although drowned in butter and brown sugar and/or corn syrup seemed to be the most common way of serving them. That or in a pie.

    I’d never had the marshmallow version until I moved to Michigan. Also not a fan. IMO, sweet potatoes are already sweet enough.

    Although I will have to give this a try.

  2. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    These rock my world!! Yum!

  3. Kristin says:

    Oh! I have that page dogeared, so I’m glad to have your recommendation before I dive in!

  4. Carey says:

    LOVE sweet potatoes, actually quite addicted. My favorite way of preparing them is too cut a SP into chunks and then roasting in a little coconut oil for an hour. Talk about carmalization. The coconut oil imparts a subtle flavor as well. When done I sprinkle with cinnamon and a bit of sea salt. So good, so simple.

  5. Laura B. says:

    OMG! This looks to DIE for!! Making this tonight!

  6. Julie says:

    I just saw this on Tastespotting, and I just had to check out the recipe. Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods, and this preparation sounds heavenly! I will make them this weekend :)

  7. Margie says:

    What’s not to love about a sweet potato, a yam? Absolutely one of my favorite rootie’s. I’ve tried the purple ones, but the recipe was forever ago, and to be honest, I don’t remember nuttin’ these days. My experience must not have been half bad, though, or I would have remembered… ;)

  8. Meredith says:

    These look delish! I immediately wanted to try them. Then, like I do with every great side dish recipe I like, I wondered what on earth I’d serve it with. Any suggestions? And, any suggestions for the vegetarian person? Could you serve this with fish?

    Oh, please help!

  9. myfudo says:

    My daughter has a certain fondness for orange-y root crops. Sweet potatoes, carrots, etc…She loves them in sweet desserts, even in hearty dishes. This will make her smile, I am sure!

  10. Joy says:

    I would never think of using mirim. That is a wonderful idea. I love that you used the purple potatoes too.

  11. Michi says:

    this looks amazing. i’ve been following your blog now for sometime and love it. this is off topic but where are the Asian markets in the boulder area? are there any that you can buy sashimi or japanese fish for home sushi? i don’t live in the area but considering a move there in the future.

  12. Lisa says:

    We eat a slice of purple sweet potato in the morning when we can get it in our local market. It is to be good for you. But your recipe sure looks wonderful to try out.

  13. Matt says:

    I hope that you are surviving the epic snowstorm!

  14. Barbara says:

    These are called Kumara in New Zealand. Here in Australia I think they are just sweet potato. My fave roasted are the purple skin (grey inside) but I prefer the orange for soups.

    Jen I have that same green plate but as an oblong. Fabulous colour isn’t it. xoxo

  15. Mrs Ergül says:

    You have me at the crispy edges!! The intense orange colour of the sweet potato is so tempting!

  16. jenyu says:

    itchbay – it’s lighter than those other versions, which I like.

    Carey – good to know, thanks.

    Margie – the purple ones are a bit starchy & dry, so I’d just stick with the orange sweet potatoes.

    Meredith – i’m thinking they might go well with pork… grilled pork. Maybe teriyaki pork chops? But that’s a lot of heavy, so I’d make a Japanese cucumber salad and probably lots of other vegetables :)

    Joy – yeah, the purple potatoes were an experiment, but I wouldn’t do them again. The sweet potatoes had a better texture :)

    Michi – There is one Asian market I like in town (Asian Seafood Market on 28th south of Valmont). While it stocks a lot considering the small space, it’s sometimes lacking in ingredients I’m looking for. There are others further out (Pacific Ocean Market in Broomfield, and HMart in Aurora). The only place in town I trust for buying sushi grade fish is Whole Foods on Pearl Street, but that’s somewhat limited too (and expensive). HMart does have some “sushi” fish, but I don’t like having to drive that far…

    Matt – surviving and LOVING it! :)

    Barbara – I love that color :) I have a smaller oblong one too! xo

  17. Michi says:

    Thank you jen for your response. i live in pasadena now (i see you went to caltech) so you know i basically live in asian food. i’m nervous that i’ll have a hard transition but you can’t have everything and no place is perfect. well, from seeing your pictures i’m sold! the mountains are beautiful and i love the snow. i just got some sweet potatoes to try the recipe too!

  18. Chris Chang says:

    Woww those look amazing! Especially after midnight!

    And how perfect, I just bought some mirin and some sweet potatoes. I know what’s going to happen to them!
    and I’m super jealous that you get snow…

  19. Shirley says:

    Bookmarking this! I’ve been a fan of mirin ever since my mom told me to try the sauce she made with her Chinese eggplant, then added mirin and said try it again. The flavor was instantly more complex. I can’t wait to see what it does for sweet potatoes, which I always want more of. Plus, they just look like glazed perfection. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Nailing it on Pinterest – Sweet Sweet Potatoes « cynthesizing food and fun says:

    [...] the recipe. But that might be due to my poor execution since Jen from use real butter made amazing looking potatoes.  Oh well, maybe the third time is the charm? At least I tried something from Pinterest, even [...]

  21. Colin.J says:

    I am looking for a recipe for a thick creamy lets say salad dressing made with sweet potato.Can you help.

  22. jenyu says:

    Colin – sounds intriguing! I’ve never heard of that before. Sorry I can’t help, but do share if you find it!

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