Nothing says fall quite like the naturally sweet and slightly nutty flavor of sweet potatoes.
Michael builds on the sweetness with the addition of vanilla bean seeds – which impart a nuanced and aromatic flavor that you can’t get from a bottle of vanilla extract. A touch of cayenne, which actually has subtle hints of vanilla beneath its searing heat, comes in to balance the dish. Butter plays a big roll in this puree – not only does it help create a smooth and silky texture, but the creamy flavor of the butter also complements the sweetness of the potatoes and the vanilla.
- Sweet potato preferences. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the food processor’s bowl two or three times to ensure a smooth puree. If you prefer chunky sweet potatoes, you can mash them instead – and then fold in the butter and seasonings at the end.
- Don’t go cayenne-crazy! Add your cayenne pepper gradually and taste as you go. The heat of this spice can vary greatly from jar to jar. Remember – you can always add more, but you can’t remove it once it’s mixed in.
- Big-flavored beans. A little bit of vanilla bean goes a long way, too. If you’re doubling the recipe to feed a crowd, keep in mind that you only need the seeds of half a vanilla bean to flavor up to 6 sweet potatoes.
These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.
- Pastry Brush. Typically used for painting on glazes when baking breads or pastries, this small brush that is often made from nylon or plastic bristles, is great for evenly coating the sweet potatoes with oil before roasting.
The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.
Bowl and pastry brush
Sheet tray with rack
- 4 sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
- Grapeseed oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) tempered unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne, plus more as needed
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise (seeds only)
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Puncture each sweet potato all over with a fork three times on each side. Rub with grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap each individually with foil.
- Set potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until they are noticeably soft and there is caramelized sugar forming around the puncture holes. At this point they can be easily pierced with a cake tester or fork, about 1 hour.
- Carefully remove potatoes from foil and let them cool enough so that you can handle them. Peel the potatoes with a paring knife and discard the peels. Note: you can wear rubber gloves if it makes it easier to handle.
- Place the peeled potatoes in a food processor with the tempered butter and cayenne.
- Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the potatoes. Purée until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and more cayenne, as needed.
Ravioli with a sweet potato purée & sage brown butter
This sweet side dish makes a great filling for ravioli. Form raviolis using fresh pasta sheets. Boil and dress with sage brown butter.