Sweet-leaning vegetables like beets, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes have always been a tough sell for me. (Truly, it’s the earthy-sweet, vaguely-dirty flavor that I have trouble with, not the brix level of these vegetables.) That is, I had trouble with them before I learned how to treat them right. The secret is a classic flavor pairing principle: pair like with like; in this case, bold with bold. This can mean something acidic (think beets and yogurt), something spicy (think butternut squash and ginger), or, in this case, something deeply-savory, even funky (helloooooo, miso).
Salty, sweet, and umami-packed, miso is one of my all-time favorite ingredients to work with. At bare minimum, my fridge has a tub of shiro (white) miso in it, and typically also houses aka (red) miso, as well as doenjang, a Korean ingredient that’s in the same family. (Because these fermented soy wonders have a really long shelf fridge-life, it’s easy to build up a versatile collection of these flavor boosters.) Here, I used the aforementioned shiro miso, as its sweet and (relatively) mild nature complements, rather than overpowers, the baked sweet potatoes. (It’s worth noting that in addition to miso’s flavor-boosting properties, it’s no slouch on the healthy-eating front — a probiotic-rich food, miso is packed with beneficial bacteria friends.)
Because miso and sweet potatoes are such high-impact ingredients, not much else is needed to make a side dish that shines. Before being slathered inside a tender baked sweet potato, the miso is mashed up with butter in a 1:1 ratio with a splash of sherry vinegar for acidity, as outlined in one of my favorite recipes from Momofuku. (Many miso butter recipes call for far less miso — more like 2:1 butter:miso — but I prefer the punchiness of this take on compound butter). Finished with sliced scallions, it’s the sort of side that just might steal the show, all for a minimal amount of effort.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
- About 1/2 teaspoon neutral oil, such as rice bran or sunflower
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup white (shiro) miso
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Prick the sweet potatoes with the tines of a fork a few times so that they don't explode while roasting. Rub each sweet potato with oil and wrap loosely in tin foil. Roast until soft enough that a paring knife easily pierces the center, 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your sweet potatoes.
- Meanwhile, use a fork to beat together the miso and butter in a small bowl until thoroughly incorporated.
- Heat the sherry vinegar in a small skillet until it just begins to bubble. Take the skillet off the heat, and add the miso butter, whisking to combine completely.
- Once the sweet potatoes are tender, unwrap the foil, and split the potatoes open down their middles using a paring knife. Spread a generous amount of miso butter in the cavities of the sweet potatoes and sprinkle with scallions. Serve with remaining miso butter and scallions.