Sweet Potato Tostones

from Dean’s Kitchen+Bar, Cary

The sweet potato tostones from Dean’s Kitchen+Bar are a plateful of contrasts.

Tender sweet potato slices are fried until the edges turn crispy. The dollop of cranberry jam adds sweetness with a tart citrus bite, and the smear of goat cheese dressing brings a richness to the vegetable-based appetizer.

“I always cook with sweet and acid, try to get that balance,” said executive chef Steve Zanini. “For fall we were thinking pumpkin or butternut squash. None of those worked well, but the sweet potatoes did. The sugar in them caramelized well on the outside. Their sweetness went well with the tartness of the cranberry.”

For those wanting to make the dish at home, Zanini says it comes together quickly because many of the components can be made ahead of time. A batch of cranberry jam could be made for Thanksgiving, and the leftovers could be used for tostones.

The recipe is also forgiving and extremely versatile, he adds.

“You don’t have to use this vinaigrette recipe,” said Zanini. “You could use straight vinegar with the goat cheese, and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and a little sugar.”

If you don’t want to make the sauce, crumbled goat cheese makes a fine substitute. The toasted pepitas add a nice crunch, but the dish is delicious without them, he says.

The tostones, which feature North Carolina sweet potatoes, will be on the menu at Dean’s at least until January.

Featuring a seasonal menu and strong focus on locally sourced ingredients, the Kitchen is the latest concept from longtime Triangle restaurateur Dean Ogan.

The menu may have been revamped when Dean’s Seafood Grill & Bar was rebranded, but a few favorites from the Maggy-winning restaurant remain. The honey pecan shrimp; the baked crab, spinach and brie dip; and the white chocolate banana bread pudding aren’t going anywhere, Ogan says.

Sweet Potato Tostones
With Goat Cheese Vinaigrette and Cranberry Jam

Makes 4 servings

1½ pounds sweet potatoes
2/3 cup canola oil
Salt to taste
¼ cup goat cheese vinaigrette (recipe follows)
½ cup cranberry jam (recipe follows)
Toasted pepitas for optional garnish (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake whole sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until they are mostly cooked, but still firm in the center. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

When potatoes are cool, peel and slice into ½-inch rounds.

In a 12-inch heavy bottomed skillet, heat oil over medium heat.

Pinch off a tiny bit of sweet potato and drop it in the oil. If it starts sizzling immediately, gently place the sweet potato rounds in the oil. Do not crowd them and make sure they are in a single layer.

Lightly fry the sweet potato slices until browned on the edges, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season both sides with salt.

To serve, spread one tablespoon goat cheese vinaigrette on each plate. Arrange three to four fried sweet potato slices on the dressing, and top the potatoes with two tablespoons cranberry relish.

If desired, sprinkle each serving with chopped, toasted pepitas.

Goat Cheese Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup canola oil
4 ounces goat cheese

Using a blender, combine shallots, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper until smooth.

With motor running, remove the round fill cap in the blender lid and slowly drizzle in oil until dressing is thick.

Use immediately on any salad, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To make the Goat Cheese Vinaigrette, blend the goat cheese in a food processor. When cheese is smooth, drizzle in 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette dressing, and process until combined.

Cranberry Jam

4 cups (1 12-ounce package) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
Zest and juice from 1 orange
Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Using a food processor, rough chop the cranberries. Place in a saucepan with the sugar, orange and lemon zest, and the orange and lemon juices. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and transfer to another container to cool. Once cooled, the jam can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Toasted Pepitas

2 cups pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, mix pepitas and olive oil. Once pepitas are lightly coated with oil, mix in salt, sugar and cayenne pepper. Spread pepitas on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, stir, and bake for 5 minutes more.

The cooled pepitas should be stored in a sealed container.

Dean’s Kitchen+Bar
1080 Darrington Drive, Cary
(919) 459-5875

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