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Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Spice, Crème Fraîche, Lime & Cilantro (c)2012

Each week I contribute a column to the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website expanding on one of the 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. Below is the original article from this week, and my recipe for Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Spice, Crème Fraîche, Lime & Cilantro.

This week at La Domestique is dedicated to the coffee bean. Good for more than your morning cup of joe, coffee can be used in cooking and baking in both savory and sweet applications. One of my favorite ways to cook with coffee beans is a technique for coffee-baked vegetables I came across in the January issue of Food & Wine magazine. Reading the article, An Intimate Look at the Creative Life of Chefs, I was intrigued by a recipe for Coffee-Baked Squash with Crème Fraîche. Chef René Redzepi of Noma and Daniel Patterson of Coi (whom the magazine refers to as “two of the world’s best chefs”) spend a weekend developing new recipes with seasonal ingredients. While brewing his morning espresso, Chef Daniel Patterson gets the idea to roast delicata squash buried in coffee beans for a deep, earthy flavor and subtle hint of freshly brewed coffee.

Cooking in the moment means understanding a method and applying it in a similar but different situation. Unable to find thin-skinned winter squash at the market, I chose a root vegetable with similar texture that would perform well baked in the oven for about an hour. I took the technique and applied it to jewel yams (actually a variety of sweet potato). Following the method in the recipe, I filled a baking pan with an inexpensive bag of coffee beans, nestling in the sweet potatoes. After an hour roasting, the sweet potatoes collapsed in their skins, piping hot and tender. Cutting them open released a subtle aroma of earth and spice, with just a hint of freshly brewed coffee essence. I chose to compliment these notes with a sprinkling of smoked paprika, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. For garnish, crème fraîche contributed a bright tang, lime zest a floral character, and cilantro a fresh, green flavor. Quantities aren’t too important here, so feel free to ad lib based on the spices and herbs in your pantry. My flavor profile was influenced by Mexican and Spanish ingredients, but you could go with curry spice (India), or woodsy rosemary and mascarpone (Italy). With this simple technique of roasting vegetables in coffee, you’re free to cook intuitively while respecting the needs of the ingredients.

Ingredients for Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Spice, Crème Fraîche, Lime & Cilantro (c)2012

Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Spice, Crème Fraîche, Lime & Cilantro

serves 2 as a main coarse, 4 as a side dish


1 pound coffee beans
2 jewel yams (sweet potatoes) of the same size
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch brown sugar
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the coffee beans into a baking sheet. Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and then nestle them into the coffee beans. Place the baking sheet into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, monitoring occasionally to make sure the beans are not smoking. If the oven is too hot the coffee beans will smoke and give off a burnt aroma to the sweet potatoes.

After 30 minutes, turn the sweet potatoes over and stir the beans a bit. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking the sweet potatoes until very tender and collapsed in their skins, about 30-45 minutes more. Test the sweet potatoes for doneness by piercing all the way through the flesh with a table knife. Set the sweet potatoes aside until just cool enough to handle. Once the coffee beans have cooled they can be discarded.

Make the spice mixture. In a small bowl, stir together the sea salt, smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, cayenne, and brown sugar.

Now prep the sweet potatoes as you would a baked Russet potato. Slice each potato in half lengthwise and use a fork to fluff the flesh. Sprinkle the spice mixture amongst the 4 sweet potato halves. Garnish each with a tablespoon of crème fraîche, a few pinches of lime zest, and some cilantro leaves. Serve warm potatoes immediately.

Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Spice, Crème Fraîche, Lime & Cilantro (c)2012