A staple of Southern and tropical cooking, sweet potatoes are pureed and topped with marshmallows, then baked as a Thanksgiving side dish; added in chunks to stews and soups; and candied as a holiday treat in Mexico.
Sweet potatoes are available year-round, but their true seasons are fall and winter. Choose firm, unblemished sweet potatoes without any breaks in their thin skin.
Sweet potatoes do not keep well. Store them in a cool, dark place, but plan to use them within a week or so.
To bake whole sweet potatoes, scrub them well first and prick their skins in a few places with a fork. Place them on a baking sheet to catch their juices, and bake in a preheated 400°F oven until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. They may then be peeled and sliced or cut into chunks for glazing, or pureed. You can also peel uncooked sweet potatoes and cook them in salted boiling water until tender before glazing or pureeing.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)/p>