Christmas dinner in Mexico: Yams in Pineapple Banana Coconut Glaze

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I was assigned Yams for the Christmas 2009 pot luck dinner here in La Paz. Somehow, the women on the dock found out that I know how to cook, and that my boat is well equipped for it.

I've never done Yams before, though. I grew up in the midwest U.S.A., where holiday sweet potatoes come in a can and are covered in marshmallows, and drowned in brown sugar. Yuck.

I wanted to come up with something using local ingredients, with a bit of a Mexican touch. I also wanted to avoid using any sugar, and have all the sweetness come from fruits and vegetables.

This actually ended up being more Caribbean than Mexican. Oh well.
About half of my inventions are disasters, but this one worked out very well.

Ingredients:

1 Kilo (2.2#) Fresh Yams
3 Large Onions
3 large Jicama roots
1 pineapple
12 tiny bananas (local) or 6 large ones
1 Limon (tiny little lime)

1 12 oz (I think) can coconut milk.
1 pound fresh butter
2 cups water

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 clove grated garlic
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (I think)
1/4 tsp Allspice (I think)
1/4 tsp Nutmeg (I think)

Okay. Cut the yams in half, trim the ends, and simmer for 20 minutes. I added a glob of coconut milk to the water, just to try and get the flavor in the yams. When the yams are cooked but firm, pull them out and put them in the fridge. This will make them cool and easier to slice.

Now, the sauce.

The base for this sauce is onions and butter. Dice three onions, and let them slowly cook in a pound of melted butter. Crush the garlic and add it now. You want the onions to dissolve, and turn really sweet, but not caramelize. (Actually, it's probably okay if they caramelize. Maybe I'll try that someday.)

When they onions are sweet, and no longer taste like onion, add an entire diced pineapple. Remember, this sauce is supposed to be really sweet, and we're not going to use any sugar.

When the pineapple has slowly cooked into mush, add six tiny bananas, or two of the big kind. Add the rest of the can of coconut milk -- about 6 or 8 ounces. Grate some fresh ginger root, and add about a teaspoon. Grate some extra, because you might want to add more. Squeeze in the juice from the Limon.

Now, add the black pepper, white pepper, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, and let the whole thing cook very slowly for ten minutes or so. Then taste it. You might want to add a bit more of this or that spice. I can't really remember, as I wasn't writing it down at the time. This would be a good time to add some salt to taste.

Now, I added two cups of water and let the whole thing simmer for a half hour or more, on very very low heat.

While that's happening, peel the jicama roots and cut them into 1/2 inch slices. Cut the slices in half. On high heat, brown them in a frying pan. I used canola oil, but if you want to be authentic use lard. <G> Jicama will brown nicely but still be crunchy.

So, finally, pull out the cool yams and cut into 3/4" thick slices. Line the sides of a baking dish with the brown jicama slices, and set one layer of yams on the bottom. Cover with the sauce. Keep doing that until you run out of yams, or the pan is full.

Finally, cut some bananas into thin slices and lay them all over the top.

Bake the whole thing. I screwed up, and set the oven at 250, figuring that I'd let it get slowly hot and then blast it at the end. The idea was to be able to go have cocktails and not worry about it. However, it didn't get hot enough in time for dinner, so I had to blast it at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.

If I had to do it again, I'd probably bake it at 450 for 30 to 40 minutes. You want the top layer, including the bananas, to get browned and lightly caramelized.

Anyway, that was my big experiment. It turned out nicely. Give it a shot, and tweak it any way you want.


 

Click on pictures to see them full size

Yams simmering with a glop of coconut milk.

When cooked, I stored in fridge overnight so they're easy to slice.

Onions simmering in butter

A pineapple.

Pineapple added to the melted onions.

Tiny bananas. You rarely find these up north, as they spoil quickly. They're really sweet. Note the grated ginger root.

Keeping the sauce from burning is critical. This vegetable steamer, upside down over the burner, kept the sauce at just the right temperature.

Final assembly, prior to baking. Note the browned Jicama root around the edges. I also sliced a bunch of bananas about 1/8" thick and set them all over the top.

The final result didn't get a picture. I had to go carve turkeys, and someone else pulled it from the oven and brought it up. Oh well.