Hasselback potatoes dress up a holiday table

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Ladies and gentlemen, sharpen your knives. It’s time to add a little pizzaz to your holiday table with hasselback sweet potatoes.

Forget the marshmallow-laden casserole; hasselback sweet potatoes are not only healthier but also an impressive way to present a holiday favorite with the same flavors.

The hasselback technique involves thinly slicing a whole potato so that it looks like an accordion or fan. You don’t slice the whole way through, so the potato can be served in one piece. Preparing them this way results in a fancy presentation that is easy to flavor. With a crispy exterior and the creamy interior, the hasselback sweet potato is the best of both worlds.

This unique way of presenting potatoes got its name from the Swedish restaurant Hasselbacken where it was first served. The story goes that in 1953 Leif Eliasson, a young student chef, was inspired to cut a whole potato in this fan fashion. However, references to “hasselbackspotatis” have been found in a cookbook from 1934 — so maybe it was a case of someone reinventing the wheel.

To make slicing the sweet potato easier, set it between wooden skewers or spoons (or even knitting needles). That will prevent you from accidentally slicing all the way through the potatoes.

Despite sounding like a hassle, hasselback sweet potatoes are easy to prepare. All you need is a sharp knife. To cut the potatoes, place them lengthwise between the handles of two wooden spoons or chopsticks. Knitting needles or skewers work well, too. Cut the potato into 1/4-inch slices, leaving 1/4 inch at the bottom unsliced. The spoons or chopsticks will stop the knife from slicing all the way through.

When choosing sweet potatoes, look for the Jewel or Garnet varieties. They are oblong shaped with a dark orange-red skin and orange flesh. Choose sweet potatoes about a half pound, and preferably all the same size.

With a crispy exterior and the creamy interior, the hasselback sweet potato is the best of both worlds — and it’s easier to make than it looks. To make slicing the sweet potato easier, set it between wooden skewers, below, or spoons (or even knitting needles). That will stop you from accidentally slicing all the way through the potatoes.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 4 sweet potatoes cut in hasselback fashion
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

In a small pot, combine the maple syrup, cider, butter, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until somewhat thickened, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Brush the sweet potatoes with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place them cut side up on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until they can be pierced easily with a knife.

Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven and use a fork or spatula to gently pry the slices apart to make more room between each one. Use a brush to generously coat the potato slices with the syrup mixture. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.