Being from North Carolina, the sweet potato capital of the South, I found it hard to admit that the relatively new variety of sweet potato called Beauregards (developed at Louisiana State University) was without question the most succulent sweet potato I’d ever tasted. Today, Louisiana is one of the few states that grades its sweet potatoes by size and quality and, to my knowledge, it’s the only state that actually cures the potatoes for ultimate sweetness and moistness. Such potatoes are delicious simply roasted and smeared with butter, but when you combine them with poached chicken to make this hash—which Louisianians are just as likely to serve for breakfast (topped with a poached or fried egg) as for supper—the result is sublime. One tip: Never buy “green” (freshly harvested) sweet potatoes during the summer months, since they don’t yet have the enzyme that converts starch to sugar when cooked. The best tubers are stored by growers and marketed during the winter months.
Place the chicken breasts in a large, deep skillet, add enough water to barely cover, and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to low, poach the chicken till tender, about 10 minutes, transfer to a work surface, and cut into ½-inch cubes. Set aside.
Place the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with enough water to cover, and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook till the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring, till the vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the paprika, thyme, and salt and pepper and stir for 1 minute. Add the chicken, sweet potatoes, scallions, parsley, and half-and-half and cook, stirring, till the liquid is reduced and the hash is thickened and “tight.”
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.