Few vegetables are as versatile as the sweet potato, which stars in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes that are eaten throughout the day, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as between-meal snacks. Sweet potatoes are baked, boiled, fried, smothered, mashed, pureed, turned into soups, served on their own, combined with meats or other vegetables and incorporated into a variety of baked goods.
They have a particular affinity with pork and pork products, which results in all manner of tasty pairings. On the breakfast table, ham, bacon and sausage are marvelous with sweet potato biscuits, bread, waffles and pancakes. Baked sweet potatoes are a popular accompaniment to both boudin and chicken and sausage gumbo. Sweet potatoes can be cooked with fresh pork in a variety of preparations, while broiled or fried pork chops and french fried sweet potatoes are a delicious combination.

In fact, french fries made with sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes have become increasingly popular in recent years, judging by how often they appear on restaurant menus. And why not? They’re delicious, and one would hope, more nutritious than their paler counterpart. Packaged sweet potato chips, which are absolutely scrumptious and (unfortunately) just as addictive as regular potato chips, are also becoming more widely available.

This month’s recipes are a sampling of the sweet potato’s versatility. The bacon and sweet potato hash with poached or fried eggs combines the smoky, salty and sweet tastes that are much beloved by Southerners. The pork loin with sweet potatoes is flavored with a small amount of cane syrup that accents both of the principal ingredients. The roasted sweet potato wedges are not the same as french fries, but they are very tasty and a whole lot healthier. And the sweet potato pie is yet another iteration of one of the South’s most iconic desserts, this one made with a pecan crust.

All of the following recipes specify small sweet potatoes, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Unfortunately, the industry has become enamored of big specimens, which are much favored by growers and canners, but the behemoths just don’t have the flavor of the smaller varieties. It’s worth the extra effort involved to search for the tastier potatoes.

Bacon And Sweet Potato Hash

• 6 slices thick-cut bacon
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 4 small sweet potatoes
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4-8 eggs

Cook bacon in large skillet until browned, but still chewy.
Drain on absorbent paper. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Add sweet potatoes to skillet, stir to combine, cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Cut bacon into small pieces, add to skillet, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Poach or fry eggs. Divide hash among 4 plates and top each with 1 or 2 eggs.

Makes 4 servings.

Pork Loin With Sweet Potatoes

• 1 1/2-2 pound pork loin filet
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
• 2 tablespoons cane syrup
• 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Dry pork loin with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large, heavy casserole and brown pork all over.
Pour off fat from casserole.
Add chicken broth or stock to casserole; spread cane syrup over pork loin and add sweet potatoes.
Cover casserole and cook in preheated oven until pork is done, about 30-35 minutes.
Thinly slice pork and serve with slices of sweet potato. Spoon pan juices over pork and potatoes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

• 4 small sweet potatoes
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Scrub sweet potatoes, but do not peel.
Dry with paper towels.
Cut each potato lengthwise into 4 wedges.
In a mixing bowl, toss wedges with olive oil to coat.
Sprinkle with salt.
Place potato wedges on baking sheet skin side down and roast in preheated oven until cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Crust

Grind pecans in a food processor or use pecan meal, which is available in some grocery stores and supermarkets.

Pecan Crust:
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup ground pecans
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 5 tablespoons cold butter
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, ground pecans, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and work into flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture is crumbly. Beat egg with water and add to mixture. With a fork, lightly mix just until dough begins to form. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, dust with flour, shape into a ball and press into a disc. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for half an hour or longer.

Sweet Potato Filling:
• 2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (3-4 small potatoes)
• 1/2 cup light brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• 3 eggs, separated
• 1/3 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 tablespoons dark rum

In a large pot, cover sweet potatoes with water and boil, covered, until they are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 35-40 minutes.
Drain and rinse under cold water.
While potatoes are cooling, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Dust with flour and, with a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a circle whose diameter is slightly larger than the pie pan.
Transfer dough to pan, trim and crimp edges as desired.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
When potatoes have cooled, peel them, slice into a bowl and mash well.
Measure 2 cups of mashed potatoes.
In a mixing bowl, combine mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, egg yolks, milk, vanilla and rum.
Beat with an electric mixer until mixture is creamy.
In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff.
Fold egg whites into sweet potato mixture.
Turn mixture into prepared pie shell, smooth the top with a rubber spatula and bake on the lower shelf of preheated oven until set, about 35-40 minutes.
Serve pie warm or room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.