Roasted sweet potato and asparagus po’boy

When I lived in New Orleans, ordering a vegetarian po’boy meant you would get bread, mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, and bland tomatoes. This recipe is the type of sandwich that I wish my crew and I could have eaten back in the day. I started conceiving of this recipe in 2012 when I sandwiched some leftover candied sweet potatoes from my book The Inspired Vegan between bread for lunch. While sweet, the Garnet yams also had a savory essence from the miso, molasses, sesame oil, and tamari in the marinade (in case there is any confusion, while labeled “yams,” Jewel and Garnet yams are actually sweet potatoes). Since most folks can’t imagine a po’boy without some deep-fried element, I was reluctant to share a recipe for one that was stuffed with sweet potatoes. That changed when I ran across a po’boy on the Food & Wine website created by chef Kevin Nashan that included roasted sweet potatoes dusted with Cajun seasoning. I coat mine in blackened seasoning instead, and before roasting, I parboil them. In culinary school, I learned that this method yields a sweeter, creamier roasted sweet potato. I imagine this sandwich sitting at the crossroads of winter and spring, so I add roasted asparagus to the mix. The dense, sweet-savory Garnet yams and the delicate, 

earthy asparagus are a perfect match. The piquant Creole rémoulade brings everything together. While this sandwich may not visually read as a po’boy in the way that most people envision them, you best believe it has the spirit of a classic New Orleans “dressed” po’boy.

Directions:

2 tablespoons plus ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and sliced into ¾-inch pieces

1 pound Garnet yams, peeled and sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons molasses

2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos

1 tablespoon Blackened Seasoning

2 (15-inch) loaves soft-crusted French or Italian bread

Creole Rémoulade, for dressing

2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

Freshly ground white pepper

1 cup Dill-Pickled Fennel

2 cups shredded little gem lettuce

Directions:

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and the asparagus. Remove from the heat and let the asparagus sit for 30 seconds. With a spider or tongs, transfer the asparagus to a colander and set aside. Gently slide the yams into the hot water, cover, and set aside for 1 hour. Drain the yams in a colander and set aside to dry for 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the molasses, liquid aminos, blackened seasoning, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and mix well. Pour the mixture over the yams and gently toss to coat. Gently transfer the yams to one of the prepared baking sheets, spread them in an even layer, and roast until tender, about 50 minutes, flipping the rounds once after 25 minutes to ensure even cooking.

In a medium bowl, combine the asparagus with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss well and transfer to the other prepared baking sheet. After you flip the yams at the halfway mark, place the baking sheet with the asparagus in the oven. Roast for 25 minutes, until tender and crisp.

Remove both sheets of vegetables from the oven and set aside.

Halve the bread crosswise then lengthwise and place the slices in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes, or until just lightly toasted.

This is my suggestion for serving, but feel free to play around with a method that works for you. Spread the cut sides of the bread generously with rémoulade (I’m talking about a messy slather). Divide the yam rounds evenly between the bottom halves of the bread. Top the yams with a few spears of asparagus. Top the asparagus with the tomato slices, then sprinkle with salt and a few turns of white pepper. Top the tomatoes with the pickled fennel, then top the fennel with a handful of lettuce. Cover with the top halves of the bread, and enjoy.