Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees, make fork marks all over the skin around a few beautiful large, firm, golden skinned yams, then keeping at the same temperature bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet until they are so tender that a fork can most smoothly go all the way through them. When the Yams have reached that tenderness, remove them from the oven; let them sit for a few minutes until cool enough to handle and you should be able to slip the outer skin right off. Now STOP. Before you begin heaping on that good rich butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other sweet flavorings you use to entertain serving yams, cut one of those yams in half, scoop out a big spoonful, and taste it. Is that amazing? Did you realize a vegetable could be as naturally sweet, and moist and flavorful as this? If you taste the yam straight out with a spoon you will likely agree that baked yams can easily be mashed without the yummy butter and yes, even without salt! I used neither for this recipe.
Admittedly, I also enjoy mashed yams with butter and some of the nice baking spices but there are certainly other ways to use yams , utilizing their sweetness combined with a little spiciness such as using some chopped jalapeno pepper, and adding some other fresh vegetables and herbs like red peppers, scallions, and cilantro. Alternatively, you could forgo the jalapeno and just combine red and green peppers, or gold, and chopped red onion. Instead of cilantro, you could use fresh chopped parsley. Either way the fresh sweet flavor of the yam will stand out.
You could make little mini pancakes as I did here to use for any buffet or party where plates and forks are provided or make larger size yam pancakes and serve them as part of a main course.
Baking the yams on a cookie tray is a good tip. I have had yams prepared all wrapped up in aluminum foil and when opened they appear mushy. Wrapping the yams in aluminum foil seems to cause the moisture in the yam to seep out, dripping and sticking to the aluminum foil. Then, the outer part of the yam closest to the skin takes on an unappealing brownish color taking away the beautiful bright orange color that the yam has to offer, and I find the flavor altered, not as sweet.
I added a beaten egg to the mashed yam to bind the Yam mixture together. The Yam Cakes are delicate so you might want to form them and let them sit in the refrigerator a bit before frying. When frying the Pancakes you will want to heat the pan and the oil to hot before putting your yam cakes into the pan. Similar to frying Latkes, I find using a cast iron pan works best. Since the Yam Cakes are soft, not floured or deep-fried, when turning them over the first time you may want to have to use your spatula and slightly pat in the sides to help keep their shape. Once they form the appropriate crust on one side, they become firmer and much easier to handle.
Warm the Yam Cakes in the microwave or bake on a low temperature to heat through before serving. You could also accompany the platter with a creamy dip if desired but I serve them just plain on a large platter and they finish quickly.
Whether serving your Yam Cakes mini size for a party, or cake size as a side course for company or everyday dinner, it is a great way to appreciate diverse preparations in serving up this sweet colorful, flavorful and healthy vegetable, the Yam.
- 3 large yams
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 scallions, chopped finely, including green tops
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, or to taste
- a couple pinches cracked black pepper
- oil for frying pancakes
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry yams. Using a fork, pierce yams all around then place on cookie sheet in oven. Bake Yams until fully tender and a fork can smoothly insert all the way through, around thirty to forty minutes. Transfer cooked yams to a plate until they are cool enough to handle and peel off the skin, then add into a large mixing bowl, mash with a potato masher. Stir in beaten egg, add peppers, scallions, cilantro, salt and pepper. Shape small mini patties lining onto a tray, refrigerate an hour. Heat cast iron pan, add oil, once warmed, place pancakes into pan, avoiding crowding, and frying on medium heat around four to five minutes until golden browned before using a spatula to turn pancakes over. Cook another few minutes until pancakes are golden on the other side, remove to a paper towel lined plate, transfer to a platter and serve. If not serving right away, yam pancakes may be refrigerated and microwaved or baked on a low temperature until fully heated all the way through. Serve plain or with a creamy dip.