I made these hasselbacks for Sunday dinner with the most beautiful little sweet potatoes I picked up at the market on Saturday. They were misshapen, small, pale peach colored, not even in the same family as the bloated, cloying sugar bombs you get at the supermarket. “Do you know about hasselbacks?” I asked Andy when I pulled them out of the oven. He did not. “They look like little armadillos swimming in butter,” he said, which is pretty much exactly right. He had been going back and forth between the kitchen and the patio, where he was brushing pork chops with a soy glaze and downing a strong gin and tonic, but not as strong as the one I had made myself. It was the kind of drink Andy’s dad might call a horsekiller. All weekend the drinks had been horsekillers. On Friday, the horsekillers even started before 6:00 — something I never do — but I was still shaken by events of Thursday, when Abby broke her arm playing soccer. “They’re so fun looking,” Andy said poking at the potatoes.
They’re also kind of fussy and annoying. You have to take a really sharp knife and slice until you’re almost all the way through, but not quite. It’s detail work, and I’m not a detail girl. You can probably see in the photo that I ended up cutting all the way through on a few of them. (I’m sure the varsity Hasselbackers out there are crying rookie.) Let me tell you how much I cared, though: NOT AT ALL. I appreciated the opportunity to apply some laser focus to an organic sweet potato instead of letting my mind wander everywhere else. When you get a call saying your kid is in “tremendous pain,” being taken off the field in an ambulance, and you are downtown during rush hour, about two hours from getting to her, it takes a few days to settle your brain again.
As for stomachs settling, that didn’t take nearly as long, especially for the patient. In fact, all weekend, we seemed to be on one giant Get Well Food Tour. (Abby on Friday Afternoon: “I feel like brownie batter, not brownies.” Me: “Coming right up.” Abby on Friday Night: “Can we go out to Hibachi tonight?” Andy: “What time should we make the rez and who do you want to bring?” Abby on Saturday: “I feel like a Walter’s Hot Dog for lunch.” Us: “Leaving in five.”)
This is to say nothing of the sweets. We made her favorite brown butter apple pie even though the apples aren’t quite there yet. Her sister and a friend baked a batch of Playdate cookies (page 139, Dinner: A Love Story) which turned out even more crispy-chewy than usual. Abby’s grandparents came by on Sunday for a sympathy call bringing some local artisanal chocolates and a lifetime’s supply of Twizzlers, Abby’s newest candy obsession.
By the time Sunday dinner rolled around, we were ready to right the ship with those grilled pork chops and a salad made with bunches of greens that looked like bridal bouquets. The vendor at the market told me they were some version of Bibb, but I can’t for the life of myself remember…maybe red oak….
Gorgeous right? I tore these up into bite-size leaves, then tossed with (also super fresh) yellow cherry tomatoes, Pecorino Romano, scallions, chives, and my favorite dressing.
The kid knows what she likes.
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
9-10 small, superfresh sweet potatoes (as shown)
6 tablespoons butter
toppings: chives, salt, pepper, sour cream (mix in a teaspoon of miso to a quarter cup of sour cream if you have it)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife, slice each potato as shown, cutting almost-but-not-quite all the way through. The potato should still hold together. Place potatoes in a baking dish. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Using a pastry brush (or a spoon) brush butter all over potatoes — including its crevices — reserving about two tablespoons. Bake in oven for 30 minutes, brushing them with reserved butter every ten minutes or so. Larger potatoes might need more time in the oven — look for the edges and skins of the potatoes to be shriveled and soft. Serve with toppings. Next time I’m experimenting with miso in there somewhere.
Gin & Tonics: I trust you can figure out how to turn it into a horsekiller; Soy-Glazed Pork Chops, page 246 How to Celebrate Everything; Brownie Batter: See Teacup Brownie Sundaes, page 95 HTCE; Brown Butter Apple Pie, page 193 HTCE.
Kitchen Still Life with Medicine. (Missing: Bombay Sapphire.)