That’s cumin and pecans for any strict Anglophones out there. Two decidedly not-French ingredients. But they are the two featured ingredients for Foodie Fights Battle #14, in which I was chosen to participate. Cumin, at least, is fairly easy to come by around here, but pecans are horrendously expensive. Lucky for me, Nick recently brought back a bag full of goodies from Trader Joe’s, including some pecan halves. Game on!
At first it felt a little weird trying to construct a dish based around a spice and a garnish; but then I have been known to build an outfit around a pair of shoes, which I guess would be the sartorial equivalent. So… cumin and pecans. Cumin makes me think of Mexican or Indian food, while pecans are 100% americana. I had a number of ideas floating around – curried carrots on cumin rice, cumin-pecan kettle corn – none of them really gelling into something I wanted to get off my butt and cook. Then I remembered that it’s sweet potato season.
And suddenly I had to have something Thanksgiving-y. The cumin would be an unusual twist, but I thought I could make it work. Smoky bacon (what else?) and sweet maple syrup provided the catalysts that ended up tying it all together. The pieces of the puzzle fell together while I was at work, so I quickly scribbled “Cumin-Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/ Sweet + Spicy Pecans Bacon!” on a torn-off scrap of paper, very excited to buy some sweet potatoes at the Asian market and make this dish happen.
Which it did, Saturday night. We had some guests for dinner, so I made the sweet-spicy-salty pecans first, appropriate for nibbling in between Wii bowling games. Honestly, the pecans by themselves were a huge hit, and I got repeated requests for the technique. I could have left it at that, but why would I, when I could use the pecans to top cumin- and bacon-scented sweet potatoes? I definitely wanted to use whole cumin seeds, but I didn’t want them to be too crunchy, so I tossed them with the potatoes, some chopped onion, blanched lardons, and a little oil before covering the baking dish with foil and baking/steaming it for 30 minutes. However, steamed sweet potatoes don’t excite me nearly as much as roasted ones, so after the initial half hour, I took off the foil, drizzled on a vinaigrette made with maple syrup and apple cider vinegar, and continued roasting for another hour while I prepared the rest of the meal: duck breasts and spinach wilted in the duck fat.
It was a great dinner for a chilly autumn night, and I can definitely see this one on the holiday table.
The battle starts tomorrow (Tuesday, October 20). I’d love it if you headed over to Foodie Fights and voted for me. It should be worth checking out, even if you ultimately decide I didn’t earn your vote – I haven’t seen the other entries yet, so I don’t know what I’m up against. The winner will be announced on Thursday, so get your votes in!
Click through for the recipe, which I heartily encourage you to try.
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