One thing that people seem to constantly be searching for this time of year is a solid idea for a delicious holiday appetizer that’s guaranteed to impress your guests. There are at least a million ways to have fun and be impressive, but I’ve found that you just can’t go wrong with a little bacon.
Plus cubes…people really like little cubes…
Roast sweet potato and bacon is such a fun flavor combination, and it’s one that will work really well to keep guests happy during the holidays. You really can’t go wrong with this combo! Plus, there are endless ways to dress it up and change it to whatever works for the meal you have planned. For the most part, this is a really simple appetizer that just gets a little fussy when it comes to wrapping each cube with bacon. However, the leeks can be deceptively difficult. You really have to get an incredibly fine julienne or they won’t get crispy before they start to burn. If that sort of thing is going to drive you crazy, skip it! Pick another flavor combination! You’re playing with bacon and potatoes! There’s no bad combo here!
These appetizers can be a lot of fun to play with and there are endless little tweaks you can do to make them your own. If you want to stay safe, parboiling the sweet potato cubes until just tender is the more classically “correct” way to go, but I found that if I cooked them until they were actually pretty soft, carefully drained them and allowed them to cool, and then gently wrapped them in bacon for roasting, what I wound up with were these magical little bites of what felt and tasted like roast mashed sweet potatoes with bacon. It was pretty awesome! You have to be really careful and gentle if you want to do that, which takes away from how simple these little guys can be to prepare, but if you have the time and energy, I definitely recommend trying this technique!
Recently, these little guys were a huge hit with crispy julienned leeks and spicy aioli, but I have tried a few flavor combinations, from cilantro to scallions, to rosemary and maple syrup, and they were all fantastic! Wrapping a little fresh herbs between the potato and bacon before roasting them worked really well, as did sprinkling the sweet potato with anything from chipotle powder to nutmeg. It’s fun to take a minute to really think about what kind of flavor you want to enjoy! Cilantro or scallions with the spicy aioli were both awesome. For the rosemary, I used a sprig of rosemary as a skewer and then roast the sweet potato cubes with maple syrup drizzled over the bacon. If you have an idea and want to run it past me, please do! Feel free to use the comments section to ask questions or discuss ideas!
Most importantly, have fun, be creative, and enjoy!
Do ahead tip: If you want to do things ahead, the aioli and the potato cubes can be made a day ahead. You can roast the bacon and potatoes the day before and keep refrigerated. Heat them before serving to re-crisp the bacon. Garnish and serve!
A (Mostly) Simple and Delicious Holiday Appetizer: Roast Sweet Potatoes with Bacon, Crispy Leeks, and Spicy Mayo!
- 1 red-skinned yam or sweet potato (yields about 20 cubes, depending on size)
- 10 strips of bacon
- salt, pepper
- 20 pieces skewers or woody herbs
- 1 each leek, white and pale green part only
- 1-2 tbs corn starch
- 2 cups oil, neutral
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise or aioli
- 2 Tbs Sriracha hot sauce
- 2 dashes Tabasco or Tapatio (more if you want spicier)
- Juice of 1/2-1 lime, depending on quality
- Salt, pepper
- Peel the potato.
- Cut a slice off of each side so that you wind up with an even rectangle.
- Cut into slices 3/4" -1" thick, making sure they are all even thickness.
- Cut into cubes 3/4"=1" thick, making sure they are all the same size.
- (If that's too tough/annoying, feel free to go "rustic," just be aware that the cubes will not cook evenly, so you'll want to keep an eye on them during the parboiling process.)
- Put the potato cubes into a pot and cover them with cold water and 1 Tbs salt.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Cook until just tender (unless you want to have some fun; see suggestion above)
- Remove from water immediately and allow to cool, uncovered. You want to get rid of all of the steam and moisture.
- Preheat oven to 375
- While the potatoes are cooling, cut your bacon in half, and if it's thick, to just slightly wider than the width of your cubes. The bacon shrinks a little in the oven, and if it's wider than the potatoes, it will look nicely well-wrapped. You can see in one of the pictures above how my bacon is wrapped just slightly past the edges of the potato cubes. You can also get this effect by wrapping slightly off-center.
- If using herbs, place your herbs between the bacon and sweet potato and wrap each piece carefully, placing each cube seam-side-down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
- Cook for 10 minutes and turn baking tray.
- Cook for 10-15 more minutes, until the bacon is cooked and becoming golden.
- Remove from oven and flip all of the pieces over. This will even out the color of your pieces. Allow to cool this way, and then either finish or DO AHEAD: refrigerate, covered until ready to reheat and use.
- Cut the leek into 2" pieces.
- Slice halfway through each piece, allowing the layers to come apart.
- Stacking 2-3 layers at a time, julienne your leeks as thinly as you possibly can.
- Heat the oil in a small pot with plenty of space at the top until a little water dripped into it bubbles vigorously (about 350-375)
- Dust the leeks with the cornstarch and mix well to coat all of the pieces.
- Shaking off excess cornstarch, carefully fry the leeks in batches.
- When crispy but still completely pale, remove the leeks from the oil and drain on paper towels. Salt immediately. You don't want the leeks to turn color or they'll taste burnt. This happens incredibly fast! You'll probably need to get the leeks in and out of the oil in about 10-15 seconds.
- Mix all of the ingredients.
- Taste and season!
- If making ahead, heat the oven to 350
- Place the cubes in the oven in a single layer with space all around. Heat until the fat is melted and the bacon starts to crisp 10-15 minutes.
- Skewer the cubes
- Dot each skewer at the base with aioli (I like to use a ziplock bag with the tip cut, like a pastry bag. It allows you to really control where the aioli lands.)
- Sprinkle with crispy leeks.