For the follow-up to his first cookbook, which flirts with flavor combinations, recipe developer Nik Sharma knew he wanted to focus in on the individual intricacies of specific flavors. The result is the new cookbook The Flavor Equation, which starts by outlining how we all rely on senses and feelings when we eat — sight, sound, texture, taste, and memories among them.
As for basic tastes and flavors, there’s brightness, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, savoriness, fieriness, and richness, and Sharma lays out each with a set of recipes to help readers better understand how they work in practice. There’s also emotions; for the author, fierce memories of his grandmother’s cooking that he grew up with in Mumbai figure majorly in his own flavor equations.
Guided by our memories as well as an understanding of how flavors play off one another, The Flavor Equation is about taking simple dishes and pantry-staple ingredients to the next level. Take the sweet potato, which at one point or another so many of us have steamed, baked, or roasted.
Sharma tested ways to improve on roasting sweet potatoes in the oven, and found that a method of steaming and roasting worked wonders for the tuber, in terms of texture and aromas. His prepared potatoes are dressed with crème fraîche, maple syrup, lime juice, and fish sauce, and then tossed with roasted peanuts. The result is a perfect distillation of the ethos of The Flavor Equation, which comes out on October 27 and is featured in Eater’s fall 2020 cookbook preview. Check out the recipe below and try it for yourself.
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Crème Fraîche
For the sweet potatoes:
4 7-ounce sweet potatoes (about 200 grams) each, preferably a yellow-fleshed variety such as garnet or jewel
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
For the dressing:
½ cup (120 grams) crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
2 tablespoons peanuts, roasted
1 teaspoon red chili flakes, such as aleppo, maras, or urfa
½ teaspoon lime zest
Step 1: To prepare the sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Step 2: Rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes under running tap water. Slice them lengthwise and place them in a roasting pan, cut side facing up. Brush with the butter and season with salt. Cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and press around the edges to seal snugly. Bake for 20 minutes, so they cook in their own steam. After 20 minutes, remove the foil, flip the sweet potatoes, and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes more, until the sweet potatoes are cooked thoroughly and are tender; a knife inserted into the center of the sweet potato should slide through easily. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
Step 3: To prepare the dressing, in a small bowl combine the crème fraîche, maple syrup, lime juice, fish sauce, if using, and pepper. Taste and season with salt.
Step 4: To serve, top the warm roasted potatoes with a few tablespoons of the maple crème fraîche dressing. Sprinkle with the scallions, peanuts, red chili flakes, and lime zest. Serve with the extra dressing on the side.
Reprinted from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.