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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Painful Wisdom and Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Step 1: Cut sweet potato into even sticks, Step 2: Add seasoning
A few days ago, on a bus ride back from New York City, a dull ache in my upper jaw turned into blinding agony. As our bus crawled through the Friday afternoon traffic leading out of the city, things only got worse. Left without painkillers, I suffered all through the journey, managing somehow to make it back home to Boston without letting out the primal screams gnawing at my insides.

This morning, after a long weekend, I finally made my way to the dentist who took a quick look at an X-ray of my jaw and lost no time in referring me to an oral surgeon. A little late in the day, my wisdom teeth have finally decided to erupt, and are aggressively pushing their way out through my gums. Only my mouth is too small for these unwelcome guests, and like passengers in a crowded subway train, my older teeth are protesting as these newcomers try to jostle their way in. 

When I got home with the X-ray, my family pounced on it. Their interpretations of the black and white image varied, as if were a piece of modern art. My husband, staying true to his mathematical training, assessed the impossible angles at which my four errant teeth were launching themselves. My father remembered the foresight of my childhood dentist who had, years ago, Nostradamus like, foreseen this war of wisdom teeth. My mother as always said, "I told you so" - she had Googled my symptoms and decided that my suffering stemmed from "impacted" wisdom teeth long before my dentist said so.

She also said that dental pain is the worst sort of body pain one can suffer. Hot compresses and massages can relieve other aches, she reasons, but they can hardly help if your teeth choose to revolt. With the exception of heart ache, she is probably correct. But dental pain is especially painful to me for another reason. With my achy jaw and a diet of painkillers, it is impossible to indulge my taste buds as I otherwise would.

They say that only those who have endured great pain can become great artists and great poets. Probably true, from my experience. With most other pursuits having been made impossible by my painful wisdom teeth, it was in the direction of this blog that I turned. I may not have a masterpiece of a painting or poem on my hands, but I do have a great recipe to share.

Here's a recipe that is easy enough to whip up in the worst of times and tasty enough to enjoy in the best of times. I've served these baked sweet potato fries quite a few times and have had an excellent response every time. I have to say that the fries aren't crispy like deep fried French fries, but the ends do tend to crispen up, and the combination of sweet, savoury and spicy in a single appetizer works very well.


Baked Sweet Potato Fries (adapted from this recipe)

1 large sweet potato  
1 tbsp olive oil (or more, enough to evenly coat the fries)
a generous sprinkling of salt, preferably kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper powder (or red chili flakes)
other seasonings such as mixed herbs (optional)
a generous sprinkling of corn starch (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 deg F. Scrub potato (because I leave it unpeeled), and cut into long, even sticks. Do not cut them too thin, because they taste better with some bite to them. In a mixing bowl, toss the sweet potato pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper, any seasonings and corn starch. Better to go easy on both at this stage - more can be added after the fries are out of the oven if necessary.  

Place them on a non stick baking sheet (for best results) or on a lightly oiled sheet of aluminum foil, which is what I used. Be careful not to crowd the fries and to make sure that there is space between them.

Bake for around 15 minutes on one side, then turn the fries and bake on the other side for another 10-15 minutes, checking in between to ensure that they do not burn. As per some reviews, leaving the fries in the oven for some time after it has been switched off makes for crispier fries. I am yet to try this, and will post an update to this recipe if I do.

Serve hot!

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