In Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten made a dish of boiled fingerling potatoes that she served with aioli for dipping. Speedy and I adored the idea but decided that our version would have sweet potatoes instead. Not only are sweet potatoes cheaper, they are also healthier — at least, in terms of Vitamin A and beta carotene content.
As for aioli, don’t feel intimidated. Just because it’s French doesn’t mean it’s far too alien. Aioli is very much like mayonnaise except that it contains garlic. You can think of it as garlic mayonnaise. You can make your own aioli following the basic recipe for mayonnaise — just remember to include about two cloves of grated garlic with the egg yolks and mustard. If making an emulsion is not something you’re comfortable with, just mix in some grated garlic to good old mayo from a jar and whisk in a little olive oil to thin it out.
There are many varieties of sweet potatoes. For this recipe, choose small yellow sweet potatoes that are no more than three inches long.
Place the unpeeled sweet potatoes in a pot, cover with water and add salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for ten to twelve minutes.
Why not peel them first? I tried that — the sweet potatoes fell apart during cooking. The skin keeps the flesh intact and the starch contained.
Cool the sweet potatoes. Using a small knife, scrape off the skins. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise.
Arrange the sweet potatoes, cut side up, on a plate. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and scallions. Serve at room temperature with aioli.