The only complaint my husband, Daniel, has about my cooking is that every time I make something he loves, I never cook it again.
It’s not that I mean to never cook it again; it’s that I can’t help but wonder, what would happen if I stirred in a pinch of this or a drizzle of that? Would it make the dish brighter, fuller, tastier? To me, this tweaking is part of the fun, one of the main reasons I love to cook.
And so it went recently when I set out to make some coconut oil roasted sweet potatoes, a recipe I developed in 2011, and still regularly riff on.
Over the past decade, I’ve switched up the spices, added other vegetables, layered on sauces, proteins and herbs. As long as I didn’t mess with the bones of the recipe — the coconut oil, the sweet potatoes, the roasting temperature — I really couldn’t go wrong. The sweet potatoes would always end up richly flavored and delicately crisp on the outside, velvety within.
That is, as long as I didn’t take the sweet potatoes out of the oven early.
As Steven D., a reader, wrote in the notes of the original recipe online at New York Times Cooking, “The potatoes are soft after a half-hour or so, but then the crusts harden in the second half-hour, giving them the delicious texture that makes the dish unique.”
The last time I made this dish, I wanted to serve it as a main course rather than as a side. So I took the well-trodden path of putting an egg on top — in this case, fried in coconut oil until the edges ruffled and crisped, turning brittle and brown.
Of course, thinking about fried eggs made me crave a side of bacon. But since I wanted to go meatless, I approximated bacon’s brawniness with a dash of smoked paprika. It added complexity to the potatoes and gave a jolt of color to the eggs right at the end, the deep red powder streaking orange in the yolks.
I also added chopped salted almonds for crunch, and a creamy, garlicky yogurt sauce to bring together the elements. It made for a wonderfully cozy, satisfying meal that I’ll probably never make again.
But you can make it as often as you like, tweaked to your heart’s content.