I have been obsessed with the Argentinian chef Francis Mallman since I saw his of Chef’s Table episode in 2015. Sure, about the only thing we have in common is a desire to set food on fire, you know, artfully. He does so these days to great acclaim on his private Patagonian island (and 8 other restaurants around the world), accessible through two flights, a five-hour drive, and then 90-minute raft across a lake. I live on a busy block of a crowded city accessible by nearly every format of public transportation, and do so to moderate acclaim (relative mostly to how well the patrons slept that day) under a wispy-by-design gas broiler.
A few weeks ago, my obsession led us to a restaurant named Mettā in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where everything is either cooked or finished over an open fire (if you go, do so on a cold night and sit at the counter, you’ll be glad you did) where the chef is protégé of Mallman. On the dessert menu is a highly regarded ash-roasted sweet potato with an infused whipped cream* and while it was delicious, forgive me, I didn’t have the Moment with it that every other restaurant reviewer has, but still tucked it away in my head as something I wanted to get back to soon. I just didn’t expect it to be exactly two days later, when I spotted a slow-roasted and charred sweet potato recipe from Michael Solomonov in Saveur. Obviously — because a jump from Patagonia to Fort Greene and then Solomonov is the very definition of “obvious” — it was fate.
Let me make no claims to the weekday appeal of this dish. It may not even have weekend appeal. I totally understand if you might find clearing nearly 3 hours just to cook a potato about as easy as buying a private Patagonian island. I only want you to promise that when you can, you will.
Here’s what happens when you rub a sweet potato with a generous amount of salt and pepper and bake it in a 275-degree oven for 2 1/2 hours and then finish it under the broiler: the flesh of the sweet potato gets sweeter, louder, and more nuanced than seems possible and the salty, lightly blackened skin gets so crispy, you’re going to immediately retroactively resent all of the sweet potatoes you had before then for not tasting like this.
But also: So, you know that only-in-America Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole with the marshmallows on top? Well, I’m about to go there. I’m about to tell you that the two things people (not me no never, how could you even suggest!) like it about it — even-sweeter sweet potatoes and a toasty, charred finish — are exactly why this dish is so good, but it gets there naturally over 150 minutes. You can use or discard this information as you wish.
* that had us reminiscing about the time we went to this restaurant in Paris where we were told by a friend to “order the Corleone and don’t ask what it is” and it turned out to a candied eggplant confit with orange zest and cinnamon and ricotta ice cream that was unforgettable enough that I bring it up here, 10 years later.
One year ago: Broccoli Pizza
Two years ago: Taco Torte and Miso Black Sesame Caramel Corn
Three years ago: Chocolate Oat Crumble
Four years ago: Garlicky Party Bread with Herbs and Cheese and Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
Five years ago: Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Coarse Dijon
Six years ago: Lasagna Bolognese
Seven years ago: Meatball Sub with Caramelized Onions
Eight years ago: New York Deli Rye Bread and Best Cocoa Brownies
Nine years ago: Chicken Milanese and an Escarole Salad, Flaky Blood Orange Tart and Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
Ten years ago: Matzo Ball Soup
Eleven years ago: Miniature Soft Pretzels
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: German Chocolate Cake + A Wedding Cake
1.5 Years Ago: Peach Melba Popsicles
2.5 Years Ago: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles with Cucumber
3.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Crumb Cake and Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime and Ginger
4.5 Years Ago: Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini