June Taylor products are hot, hot, hot. Sizzling hot.
Seems everywhere I turn, I’m seeing them in a magazine, on a newsflash, or on my doorstep.
I ordered Quince Butter ($14), Candied Bergamot Peel ($12) and Rose Geranium Syrup ($18) after spotting June Taylor’s products in the Food 52 Shop (both a hallowed and dangerous place for people like me.)
I wanted to make something using all three products, but after tasting each of them, I realized that was too ambitious, even for me.
Sometimes chefs have the tendency to wrap too many flavors together, when really, less is more.
So I settled on the quince butter and the bergamot, combined with sweet potatoes. I’ll save the syrup for another post. It needs something simple to let its unique flavor shine through.
Roasting sweet potatoes is one of the easiest preparations, so that’s where I started. I wanted to make a sauce from the quince butter and then top the mixture with the bergamot peel.
Pretty straightforward. Simply peel the sweet potatoes, and cut them into 1-inch rounds.
Layer them in a buttered baking dish, preferably one that can go from oven to table, like this pretty Emile Henry.
The bergamot orange (which is yellow in color, not orange) is small, very acidic, and used mainly for its essential oil (in the peel) in everything from perfume to confections to tea — Earl Grey tea, specifically.
I steeped 1 bag of Earl Grey in a small amount of water, making a strong tea, in essence, to enhance the sauce, thinking it would tie the quince butter and bergamot peel topping together.
The tea went into a small saucepan with the quince butter and some real butter. There is no butter in fruit butters coming from a jar. They’re called “butter” because the fruit is cooked down to a thick puree that can be spread, like soft butter.
Wanting to keep the flavors from becoming too muddled, I resisted the temptation to throw in a bunch of spices, although you certainly could. You could throw in some booze, too, and normally, I would have, but it was early and I wasn’t thinking straight, so I didn’t.
I did throw in a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg because, well, I couldn’t resist the urge completely.
The quince butter, tea and real butter boil together just long enough to thicken and meld together. I really should have added some brandy or Grand Marnier; what was I thinking? Instead, I tarted it up with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
The thickened fruit butter mixture is spread over the sweet potatoes and then the pan goes into the oven.
You should know that the sauce is sparten on purpose. You could increase the quantities a bit if you want lots of sauce after roasting, but again, I was showing restraint, still wanting the flavor of the sweet potatoes to come through.
I promise this need for restraint will pass.
While the mixture is bubbling away in the oven, I chopped the bergamot peel — finely — with a knife. I tried to use my mini-food processor, but I was only successful in knocking off the sugar coating. The peel resisted the blade. Guess I wasn’t the only one resisting today.
A chef’s knife and a little elbow grease soon made mincemeat out of the tough, fragrant peel.
To add a bit of texture, I chopped some toasted pecans to sprinkle on top along with the chopped bergamot.
Now the dish can go to the table, in its pretty baking dish, for everyone to ooh and ahh over. Visually appealing, yes, but for me, it’s the taste that deserves cooing.
From the earthy sweet potatoes to the tart quince butter to the unique taste of the bergamot, this dish brings a little sophistication and a lot of complex flavors from just a few, simple, expensive, gourmet products.
But you’re worth it, aren’t you?
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
with Quince Butter and Bergamot Peel
Serves 4 or 5
1 Earl Grey tea bag
1/3 cup boiling water
2/3 cup June Taylor Quince Butter
1 tablespoon butter (+ 1 teaspoon for buttering pan)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Pinch of nutmeg
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped bergamot peel
Heat the oven to 375º F. Steep the Earl Grey tea in the 1/3 cup boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes. Discard tea bag and pour tea into a small saucepan with the quince butter, real butter, vinegar and pinch of nutmeg. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Butter a large baking dish with a teaspoon of softened butter. Lay the sweet potatoes in a single layer, fitting in as many rounds as you can.
Pour the reduced quince butter mixture over the top and spread evenly with a spatula. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are almost but not quite fork tender. Remove the foil and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now sprinkle with pecans and bergamot peel and serve.
NOTE: Let’s just say, for example, you don’t have June Taylor’s products on hand, but you like the idea of this dish. You can substitute the quince butter with apple butter, and the candied bergamot peel with regular candied orange peel.