Chef Stephanie Tyson is the queen of sweet potatoes (“and I wear my crown well,” she says). A native of North Carolina—the top sweet potato producing state in the country—Tyson grew up eating the starchy orange veggies and now they are the namesake and the star of her restaurant in Winston-Salem. “I incorporated them in the menu so much that I had to explain it, and the name Sweet Potatoes seemed to fit,” Tyson says. “It gives me leeway into doing whatever I want with them.”
Tyson’s methods are varied and numerous: She serves candied sweet potatoes (“just what it sounds like—sugar and butter,”) sweet potato biscuits (“I have to have one a day,”) a sweet potato aioli sauce (“my favorite condiment with fried green tomatoes or okra,”) a tri-colored sweet potato pie (“I use orange, purple, and white sweet potato layers,”) a sweet potato dressing (“served with pork chops,”) and this sweet potato cornbread.
It’s a dish Tyson has been making for eighteen years, served in her restaurant in a cast-iron skillet, with a honey-ginger butter. To make it at home for National Sweet Potato Month this February, bake the sweet potatoes first (if you boil potatoes, Tyson says, all the flavor ends up in the water), then mash them before mixing them with the other wet ingredients and then adding in the dry ingredients. The cornbread, Tyson says, “comes out coarser than gingerbread, like a spice cake, but not as sweet. It’s so pretty, and so good.”