My first apartment kitchen was terrible. The appliances were a grim 80s affair, the cupboard doors were covered with off-white tack paper, and it chronically smelt like stale nicotine when the furnace would run. I didn't do a lot of exotic cooking during that stage of my life; I was busy figuring out how to pay my own bills and keep enough quarters on hand to run the washing machine in the basement.
That winter was extra-arctic, however, and motivated by my lack of desire to venture outside of those nicotine-perfumed four walls, I hatched a plan for survival: sweet potatoes.
Often they were accompanied by a piece of roast chicken, and they were always caramelized within an inch of their lives. Happily, I lived that winter, eating my sweet potatoes and reading Major Barbara for my Twentieth Century Drama class.
When I saw this recipe in the Bon Appétit newsletter, with its convincing appeal to sear the sweet potato flesh, it reminded me of that winter—sitting in my cheap apartment, eating caramelized sweet potato cubes—and I knew I had to make it.
This dish really couldn't have come along at a better time, as it makes handy use of seasonal produce: bitter, purple radicchio and bright orange sweet potato. Spicy sausage and whole milk yogurt bind everything together, and a sprinkling of fresh mint is a pleasant reminder that winter won't last forever.
Raw radicchio can be a bit astringent, but here a dressing of pomegranate molasses, wine vinegar, and sausage pan drippings balances the flavors. Pomegranate molasses is available at most Middle Eastern markets, but if you can't track it down, mix one part balsamic vinegar with three parts honey for a good substitute.
The author of the recipe calls for merguez, a generously-spiced North African sausage that I've never seen before. Chorizo is a good substitute from what I can tell. And I wouldn't skip the yogurt on the bottom of the plate. The tang accents the caramelized sweet potatoes nicely and pairs well with the spicy chorizo.
Seared Sweet Potatoes with Sausage and Radicchio
Adapted from Bon Appétit
1 garlic glove, finely chopped
2 large or 4 small sweet potatoes
1/4 cup pecans
1 head radicchio, cored and torn into pieces
8 oz merguez or chorizo
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup mint leaves
Preheat oven to 400°. Mix garlic and 3 tbsp oil in a small bowl. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork and rub with half of garlic oil; set remaining garlic oil aside. Season with salt and roast on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until flesh is soft and yielding, 40 minutes. Remove from oven; reduce heat to 350°.
Toss pecans and remaining 1/2 tsp oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Toast, tossing once, until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8–10 minutes.
Let sweet potatoes cool slightly, then cut in half lengthwise. Brush cut sides with reserved garlic oil. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium. Cook sweet potatoes, cut side down, pressing lightly with a spatula, until browned and charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and reserve skillet.
Place radicchio in a large bowl. Heat 2 tbsp oil in reserved skillet over medium-high. Cook sausage, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes. Transfer meat to a plate with a slotted spoon and pour off all but 2 tbsp fat from skillet.
Reduce heat to medium. Combine pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in skillet, stirring to combine and scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes, then drizzle over radicchio. Add reserved sausage and toss to coat; season with salt.
Mix yogurt and remaining 1 tsp oil in a small bowl, season with salt. Divide yogurt among plates and top with sweet potatoes. Arrange sausage mixture over, along with any pan juices. Top with pecans and mint.