I'll Bite

One Great ... no-sugar caramel

A simple sweet potato caramel brings out the earthy sweetness in roasted butternut squash.
A simple sweet potato caramel brings out the earthy sweetness in roasted butternut squash. Kathleen Purvis

I’m a sucker for a food hack. So the new book “Food 52: Genius Recipes,” by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press, $35) is irresistible. Miglore is executive editor of the website food52.com, founded by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The book focuses on great recipes that get passed around online and become lore, like Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread and Marcella Hazan’s onion-and-butter tomato sauce.

Spinning through the pages, a one-ingredient technique was a must-try: Sweet potato caramel. You make it by roasting sweet potatoes with a little water, squeezing out the water and then boiling it down until the natural sugar in the sweet potatoes thickens into a caramel.

It’s really very simple, and the result is intriguing – deep and earthy, not overly sweet. If you’re not married to the “one-ingredient” idea, I found it benefited from a sprinkle of salt.

Another twist: While the book recommends it as a drizzle on ginger cake (which would be amazing), I found my own genius use, as a drizzle on roasted butternut squash. The combination brings out the best of both.

Don’t waste the sweet potato you set aside after squeezing out the juice: Tune in next week and I’ll bring you a recipe for that, too.

Sweet Potato Caramel

From “Food 52: Genius Recipes,” by Kristen Miglore.

About 3 pounds (3 to 4 medium) sweet potatoes

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks. Place in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 425 degrees for an hour.

Remove the foil and bake 15 minutes longer. Add another 1/2 cup water and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the dish.

Place a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth over a saucepan. Pour in the sweet potatoes and their liquid. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then wring and squeeze the cheesecloth to remove as much liquid as possible. Set aside the sweet potato mash for another use (cover it well so it doesn’t darken, or freeze it in an airtight bag).

Simmer the strained liquid for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, until it thickens and forms a caramel thick enough to coat a spoon, stirring often toward the end. Add salt if needed. Pour into a jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. To use, warm it with a little butter or water if needed to loosen.

Yield: About 1/4 cup caramel.