Fair Food Dispatch: Sweet Potatoes at Ten A.M. | Food

Fair Food Dispatch: Sweet Potatoes at Ten A.M.

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A winning sweet potato salad from the North Carolina State Fair - DEBBIE MATTHEWS
  • Debbie Matthews
  • A winning sweet potato salad from the North Carolina State Fair
Along with the very stringent, state-sanctioned contests at the State Fair, there are more relaxed cooking competitions, whose announcements come liberally sprinkled with smiling mascots and cheerful illustrations.

Lisa Prince, host of UNC-TV's Flavor, NC and From the Vineyard, along with the state's agricultural department, organizes these contests and recruits judges. Companies like King Arthur Flour and agricultural organizations like the North Carolina Egg Association serve as sponsors. 

For the last three years, I’ve been a proud member of that posse. On Saturday at ten a.m., I claimed my spot on the sweet potato jury.

There were pies, dips, soups, and even an eggnog. The beverage, which won second place, arrived with a fifth of rum for spiking, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with its success.

First place went to sweet potato salad. The dressing was deliciously original; it contained mayo, yogurt, and barbecue sauce. My favorite today was a quiche, which received honorable mention. And a sweet potato and chorizo burrito won third place and my heart.

Each contest is also a test of the judges’ self-control. No matter how much you like an entry, having more than a few bites of each one will end in heartache and heartburn. My next adventure in willpower is Thursday, when I’ll sample pecan recipes. It’s a tough gig, but I’m willing to do it for the sake of the citizens of the great state of North Carolina.

Below are four winning recipes from Saturday's Sweet Potato Tailgating Recipe Contest (sponsored by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission) for you to try at home.

First Place: Beth Matheson, Raleigh
Spicy Smoky BBQ Sweet Potato Salad


2 lbs. sweet potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
1–2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine first four ingredients on large sheet pans covered with parchment paper. Roast at 425 degrees for 10–15 minutes, then flip or toss them around. Continue to roast for an additional 15–20 minutes until desired doneness is achieved.

1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño

Combine red onion, celery, cilantro, and jalapeño in a large bowl.

Make dressing:
6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
4 tbsp. BBQ sauce
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Juice of half a lime

Once potatoes have cooled a little, combine dressing, chopped vegetables, and sweet potatoes.

Garnish ideas: chopped bacon, green onions, extra sprinkle of smoked paprika or chopped cilantro.

Second Place: Kellie Williams, Cary
Sweet Potato Eggnog


12 egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
2/3 cups coconut milk
2 cups sweet potato puree (instructions below)
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
Spiced rum (optional)

In a bowl, mix egg yolks until pale yellow (about five minutes). Add rest of ingredients and mix together well. Add to pot and heat on low until sugar is dissolved, constantly stirring so the egg does not cook. When done, pour though strainer into a container. Refrigerate overnight.

Optional: Serve with 1 tbsp. spiced rum in each cup of eggnog.

Sweet Potato Puree: Peel and cut 2 medium-large sweet potatoes. Place pieces into large pot and cover with water. Boil for 30 minutes or until pieces are soft. When done, put pieces in a blender. Cover pieces with the water used to boil the sweet potatoes. Blend until it reaches puree consistency.

Third Place: Virginia Thompson, Durham
Sweet Potato and Chorizo Burrito


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 20

1 1/2 lbs. chorizo
1 Tbsp. oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 1/2 cups sweet potatoes (approximately 3 sweet potatoes)
10 (8”) flour tortillas, warmed
8 oz. cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Cut a slit in the top of each sweet potato and microwave until soft. Approximately 6 minutes. Scoop cooked sweet potato out of skin and set aside.

Brown chorizo in skillet until cooked through. Set aside.

Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion until soft. Stir in beans and mash. Gradually stir in water and heat until warm. Remove from heat and stir in cooked chorizo, mashed sweet potatoes, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, mustard and cayenne pepper.

Divide chorizo and sweet potato mixture evenly between warm tortillas (about 1/2 cup each). Top with cheese.

Fold up warm tortillas burrito style and place on baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes and serve.

To take to tailgate, wrap burrito in aluminum foil to keep warm.

Avocado Sour Cream Dipping Sauce:
4 tbsp. sour cream
1 large avocado, mashed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lime juice
Combine ingredients.

Honorable Mention: Kristen Frybort, Raleigh
Yummy Sweet Potato Quiche

Serves: 8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes

Potato mixture:
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and roast on a baking sheet for 15 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft, at 400 degrees. Mix once or twice while roasting to keep potatoes from sticking to the pan.

Egg mixture:
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

While the potatoes and onion are roasting, whisk the egg mixture ingredients together and set aside.

Other ingredients: 3 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
Pre-baked 9-inch piecrust

Make the quiche. Place the roasted potatoes and onions into the pre-baked pie shell. This will be the bottom layer of the quiche. Next, layer the cheese. Finally, pour the egg mixture over the cheese layer. Place on the oven's center rack at 375 degrees for 20–25 minutes or until center is set.


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