Published November-03-03
Eddy's Recipes from
It's Not Just Chicken Soup.
Kosher cooking by Eddy Robey M.A.
  Issue: 4.11
Yams are not made of tin
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Yams have a bad name, and that is terribly unjust. At this time of year, every supermarket has a large display of those orange tins, and therein lies the problem, for there are few things less appetizing than tinned yams. Everyone has some formula of goo to mix with them, and a bag of marshmallows to hide what they are, in hopes they will become edible. Diners feel obliged to take a bit on their plates, but they are seldom finished.

How did this come to be? Every suggested holiday menu assures readers that candied yams are a necessary and delicious part of American feasts, but nobody wants to eat them. Nobody that is who buys tinned yams. That is the problems, fresh yams are indeed wonderful, but those tins should be in the dog food aisle.

Too many cooks have forgotten how to prepare fresh yams. This ignorance began in the 1950s when magazines were full of recipes using newly available tinned and frozen foods, in the name of progress. That era was responsible for such culinary horrors as TV dinners and instant coffee. It is time to right the wrongs of the past.

This begins in the produce section of the market. There are always plenty of fresh yams on display. A smart consumer buys the smallest, thinnest ones available. Yes, I know that those three pound whoppers look fascinating, but the larger the yam, the more stringy and tough it is. The long narrow ones have just the right texture.

If yams are to be candied, mashed, used in puddings, pies or salads: they must be baked first. First, wash them. Then, place them in a pan which has been lined with tinfoil. Don't forget the foil, or you will do a lot of scrubbing later. Place the yams in the oven at 350 degrees. For how long? That is quite variable. You are going to bake them until juices start to run onto the foil. Do not remove them from the oven until this happens, or their sugars will not be fully developed. This will take between 1-2 hours. Once baked and chilled, they will keep in the refrigerator for a week. Just leave them in their skins until you want to use them.

You may also fry raw yams in any way that you would use potatoes. The only difference is that they must be peeled first. I strongly recommend them for home fries and latkes.

Baked yams can be served in the same way and with the same garnishes as baked white potatoes.

If you want to serve mashed yams, they are tender enough to mash with a fork using the same seasonings as for mashed white potatoes.

The simplest and most delicious way to candy yams is to pour real maple syrup over them, sprinkle a few pecans on top, and bake until heated through.

If you would like to do something a little more exotic, make them into home fries with onions, and seasoned with a mix of one part each: curry powder, cinnamon, and ginger.

Cold cooked yams can be used in any recipe for potato salad, and thus done provide an interesting bit of variety to buffets.

Copyright 2002 Eddy Robey
Excerpts from It's Not Just Chicken Soup.
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