Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes is a sweet and starchy side dish that will bring something a little bit different to the dinner table. Prior to finding this recipe I had never considered pairing citrus and sweet potatoes, but a quick search of the internet suggests that I’ve been missing out. This particular recipe dates back to 1948, one of many recipes in the U. of O. Mother’s Cookbook, a community cookbook to raise funds for the University of Oregon. I’ve since found other similar recipes from the same era, in particular the version in my 1949 Sunset Cookbook. There are subtle changes to the ingredient lists, but the directions are nearly identical right down to calling sweet potato skins “jackets”. I suspect that the recipes have a shared origin.
I found the recipe for Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes while looking for dishes to accompany a ham. Our family always orders a “good ham” for Easter, but I’ve gotten in the habit the last few years of buying a clearance ham (or two) after Christmas. Grocery store ham is delicious, easy to prepare, and big enough for multiple meals. This year I scored a ten-pound shank for less than what I’d normally pay for a pound of deli ham. This ham was enough for Sunday dinner for six, a gallon of pumpkin and black bean soup, plus an extra meaty ham hock for my spouse’s red beans and rice. For our Easter ham I usually prepare a massive tray of Funeral Potatoes, but started searching my old cookbooks for something simpler. And Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes were the perfect fit. They’re not exactly weeknight friendly – the sweet potatoes are roasted, then glazed and baked – but there’s very little active prep time. And if I’m already stuck at home tending the ham and the oven’s already on this is a low-pressure high quality side.
And it ended up being a perfect accompaniment. The sticky, citrusy glaze amps up the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes. It’s nowhere near candied yams, which I usually find inedible, but still enough to give a potent syrupy contrast to a salty cured ham. This is a change of pace for our family. We’re accustomed to eating ham with savory sides, which most people in my family prefer. And if I’m buying a good quality ham I’m not inclined to muck it up with a syrupy glaze. But this side dish is the glaze. The folks in my family who like a good sweet ham can swab their ham through the glaze, and those that don’t can eat it separately.
I haven’t really made any adjustments to the recipe, aside from making an executive decision to use white-fleshed sweet potatoes. I don’t have anything against yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes, but prefer the cleaner taste of the white-fleshed varieties: less sweet, less carrot-y. I can occasionally find Japanese purple sweet potatoes at my Trader Joe’s (purple skin/white flesh). They’d be perfect here as well, and will be my first choice the next time I make Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes.
Preparation is straightforward. The sweet potatoes are roasted at a moderate temperature in their skins (“jackets”) until soft. The only real mistake to make here is to cook them to the point that the skin is wrinkled and the sugars are flowing out like maple syrup. They need to be fork tender, but not overcooked. The sweet potatoes are then cooled, peeled, and placed in a baking dish. The glaze comes together quickly. Pour over top, add some sliced oranges, and back in the oven. I suppose at some point they’ll burn, but you really can’t screw this part up.
Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes are delicious. They lack complexity and are really only as good as the accompanying entrée, and really need a hunk of salty protein to provide an appropriate counterpoint. My family obviously enjoyed them with ham, but I’ve also served them with roast pork tenderloin (as in the picture below). They would also pair well with any roast poultry, but are probably too sweet to accompany beef or lamb. Add a simple steamed green vegetable, or perhaps a green veggie-based side (such as Creamed Beans with Dill Seed) and you’ve got a proper meal. Enjoy!
- Preheat oven to 400º F.
- Scrub sweet potatoes well and prick with a fork in a few places. Roast in a 13 x 9 baking dish for 40-50 minutes until sweet potatoes are soft but before the skins have gotten weird and wrinkly. When cool enough to handle, remove skins ("jackets"). Slice lengthwise and place bake in the baking dish.
- Slice oranges to ¼ inch thick. Discard ends. Lay orange slices over top of the sweet potatoes.
- Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Bring heat to medium and stir in orange juice and butter. Stir constantly until mixture forms a thick glaze.
- Pour glaze over top of the sweet potatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake 20 minutes more.
If you’re trying to cook this dish at the same time as a ham or pork roast, you’ll need to adjust the instructions to account for a cooler oven as follows:
(1) When roasting the sweet potatoes cook for an hour or more until potatoes are soft
(2) Cook covered for 35-45 minutes, then uncovered for 20 minutes.
(3) After removing the ham from the oven, cook under a low broiler for 2-3 minutes to lightly brown the top surface.