Want to rethink your Thanksgiving feast by revamping a typical casserole with sweet potatoes?
We asked celebrated Houston chef and restaurateur Hugo Ortega to channel his culinary identity through a traditional side dish.
Ortega remembers his first Thanksgiving, in the 1980s, with his then girlfriend, Tracy Vaught: “The sweet potatoes had marshmallows on them,” he says. “I thought, ‘Weird.’”
Three decades later, Ortega and Vaught are married, and their table still includes that classic casserole, alongside this traditional preparation from Ortega’s native Mexico City. Instead of sweet-on-sweet, the natural sugars are balanced by salt, tang, and umami.
Try this camotes (sweet potato) with salsa macha recipe. Your Thanksgiving is about to get a lot more interesting.
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- For Salsa Macha:
- 3 medium tomatoes, halved
- 2 tsp corn oil
- 16 dried chile de árbol peppers, toasted
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo, seeded and deveined
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp lard (or olive oil)
- 11⁄2 tsp kosher salt
- For Camotes:
- 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
- Crema fresca, for serving
- Salsa macha, for serving
- Blue cheese, for serving
How to make it
For Salsa Macha: Toss the tomatoes with 1 tsp corn oil and roast in a 400°F oven until caramelized, about 40 minutes, and reserve. Toast the árbol chilies in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes, and reserve.
Add remaining corn oil to a skillet and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Add garlic and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add chipotles to soften in the oil-garlic mixture as it cools.
Crush peanuts in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Add árbol chilies, tomatoes, and garlic chipotle mixture to the food processor and puree, slowly adding 1⁄2 cup water in a steady stream as the processor runs. Add olive oil using the same method. Add oregano and peanuts and pulse to a chunky texture.
Melt lard in a saucepan over medium heat. Add salsa and cook until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Add salt. Cool completely before serving.
For Camotes: Heat oven to 350°F. Toss the sweet potatoes, olive oil, and salt in a bowl to coat, then transfer to an oiled sheet pan. Roast in oven until a knife slides easily through, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove sweet potatoes from oven, and when cool enough to handle, cut into 1⁄2-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, drizzle with crema and salsa macha, and sprinkle with blue cheese. Serve warm.