What is a sweet potato? Is it a yam? Are they two different things? Are they related somehow? Has the supermarket grocery chain in my neighbourhood swindled me with clever marketing? The latter would be correct. In today’s North American super markets, what is labeled a yam is indeed a sweet potato. More to the point, it is an orange sweet potato, most likely nestled in right next to the the yellow sweet potatoes.
So what is a yam? A yam is a totally unrelated tuber grown mostly in tropical climates. It is very common in Latin American, African and Carribean markets. It looks like a sweet potato only in shape, somewhat. A true yam can grow up to seven feet long and has brown or black skin resembling the bark of a tree and is generally even sweeter than a sweet potato.
Confused yet? Don’t be. Most unsuspecting shoppers have no idea they are actually buying a sweet potato when it is labeled a yam. True yams are becoming more popular in North America, probably as Latin influences grow.
If you find one, do let me know how it tastes, I’ve been looking for years to try one out!
Today I offer you one of my most treasured recipes. As a young chef fresh out of culinary training and on to more difficult tasks, I always treasured the simple meals I could make at home and still impress with. Roasted chicken is a true gem at get togethers and family gatherings. Simple, comforting and delicious, it brings back many memories of home for a lot of people.
Sadly, it seems a lot of people find a whole chicken intimidating, probably more because of the carving step than anything, which comes last. I’ll tell you a secret. If your chicken is cooked to perfection, there is really no need to carve (except the breasts) as the meat will come apart at each joint.
This is the recipe for those that find a whole chicken intimidating. Cooked with fragrant rosemary and stuffed with garlic and lemon, this bird always comes out moist and flavourful, perfect for leftovers the next day too. The secret to the moistness is the temperature it is cooked at and the addition of the lemon to the cavity, which permeates the flesh with it’s citron glory.
I guarantee you will love this recipe, as I have for years, and will be forced to pass it on to all your friends and family as they beg to know the secrets to this perfect bird.
Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables
1 3lb. roasting chicken
4 small sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme and sage
6 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 small sweet potatoes
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large onion
1. Two hours before you begin, take the chicken out of the refrigerator to bring it up to room temperature.
2. Dry chicken with paper towels (alternately you can leave it in the fridge uncovered for a couple of days as well).
3. Season the cavity with coarse salt and pepper. Put two sprigs of rosemary, 4 cloves of the squashed garlic and 1/2 a lemon into the cavity. Truss the bird if you wish, otherwise, set aside.
4. Preheat you oven for 425°F. Meanwhile, cut up your vegetables into large chunks about 1 1/2″ square. In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the remaining herbs, garlic and about an 1/8 of a cup of canola oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in a large, deep roasting dish. Clear an area in the centre for the chicken.
5. Rub the chicken with another 1/8 of a cup of oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Place chicken in centre of roasting dish.
6. Roast in 425°F oven for 25 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 375°F and roast for an additional 60 minutes. Chicken is done when internal temperature (measured at the thigh) reaches 165°F.
7. Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a wooden board to rest for 20 minutes. If the vegetables are not yet done, return them to oven and continue to roast while chicken rests.
8. Carve your chicken and serve with accompanying vegetables.