Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Choose, Prep, & Bake Yams

How to Cook Yams
{Choosing, Prepping, & Baking Yams}.
A day late, I know.

Step One: How to Choose Yams.
a. Go to the grocery store.
b. Find the yams. Which around this time of year are hopefully on sale.
c. Give them a once-over. Rule out the ugly ones. {Yes, I'm telling you to be judgemental}.
d. Pick some that are about the same size. Doesn't really matter what size, just that they're all consistent.
e. Check all your chosen yams to make sure they aren't soft or squishy in any way. Rock hard yams are a good thing when they're uncooked.
f. Once you've checked them and they're all wondeful, bag them and move on.

Step Two: How to Prep the Yams.
a. Line a baking sheet with foil and place it next to the kitchen sink.
b. Take the yams out of the bag.
They should have been stored in a decently cool, dry place where the air gets circulated, so that they don't rot. See the tips below to make sure the yams last as long as possible, especially if there's a delay from when you bought them to when you're going to bake and eat them.
c. One by one, run them under warm water in the sink and scrub them a little to get the dirt off. Secret college student tip? Use a paper towel instead of a veggie scrubber {those hard-bristled brush things that you use to wash/scrub veggies with, eg: carrots, potatoes, & yams} if you don't have one of those in your kitchen. I didn't have one and the paper towel worked just find, even when wet!
d. Arrange the yams on the baking sheet so that the pointy, skinnier end {if there is one} points toward the center of the baking sheet. This is an attempt to keep the smaller half from burning. Kind of like when you make cookies and place the smaller balls of dough on the inside so they don't crisp.

Step Three: How to Bake Yams.
a. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
b. Once your oven beeps to let you know it's ready, open it up and stick your baking sheet with your yams on it onto the rack. I didn't really center my oven rack before sticking in the pan, so I don't really think it matters too much whether the yams are exactly in the center or towards the top or the bottom of the oven. Although heat rises, so keep that in mind.
c. Set the oven timer for 1 hour and 3 minutes.
d. Set your cell phone timer for 1 hour. This time gap allows you to check on your yams without having the oven shut off on you, just in case you need to leave them in there longer because they're not done yet.
e. Watch an episode of Castle while you wait. Or you know, be studious and listen to a lecture podcast. I should have done the latter, but did a variation of the former instead... *sheepish*
f. When your cell phone timer goes off, grab an oven mitt or potholder and caaaarefully open the oven door. Be forewarned, it's hot in there. Like... the-skin-on-your-face-gets-super-taunt hot.
g. Use the oven mitt/potholder to carefully pull out the baking sheet a little and poke the yams with a toothpick. Or an uncooked spaghetti noodle if you're a college student and didn't think to buy toothpicks {seriously, who uses those things on a regular basis anymore? Ew}.
If the yam insides are soft and you don't run into any random hard spots, they're done. If you meet resistance with your toothpick/noodle, push the pan back into the oven and increase the timer another ten-fifteen minutes and check back later.
h. When they're done, make sure the oven's been turned off and cancel the timer as well. Take the yams out of the oven and let them cool. If you leave them in, they'll just keep cooking-- it is 450 degrees in there, remember? That's going to take a while to cool down.
i. Once they're cool to the touch, pull one off the foil {and make sure none of the foil is playing stowaway on the bottom of your yam}, stick it on a plate, and enjoy!

Other random tips/observations:
1. Storing Uncooked Yams for Later Use.
I left my yams on the kitchen counter, away from the stove, until I was ready to bake them. You don't have to take them out of the plastic bag, but you do have to leave the bag open and make sure the yams can breathe {they're exposed to circulating air}. This keeps the yams from rotting too fast. I bought my yams a week before I used them and they were perfectly fine.

If a yam starts to rot, make sure the rotten part isn't touching any other yams, else it'll spread.

2. How to Tell if Your Yams are Rotten & What to Do About It.
If there's a squishy part of your uncooked yam, cut that section out. The thing about yams is that when they're uncooked, they're so dense that rotten-ness doesn't spread as fast as it does in soft fruits like peaches or bananas. You should be able to salvage most of your yam.

Same goes for fuzziness {mold}. One of my yams had a tiny fuzzy spot on it and I just cut that section out {because, ew, fuzz}; the yam was fine.

3. How to Eat a Baked Yam.
No marshmallows. That's weird.

*laughs* But no seriously, I've never tried yams or sweet potatoes any other way than simply baked. Personally, I think they're delicious without adding any of this butter or marshmallows or pumpkin spice seasoning business.

Simply pinch a section of the skin on a baked yam, pierce it with your fork tine, lift a little so that the skin is taunt, and just slide your fork down the length of the yam. Pull the skin off your yam and enjoy. They're best eaten warm, so overheat them a little when you microwave them later on.


And that's how it's done. These are perfect plain or I suppose they'd make a delicious base for mashed sweet potatoes, instead of boiled or steamed.
Good luck!

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