Sweet Potato Brioche- Part 2 in a Series on Sweet Potatoes
In February of 2006, I traveled to New Orleans only a few months after the devastating floods precipitated by Hurricane Katrina. My brother, Eric, had returned to his home there at the end of November after a couple of months of being a refugee in various places on the East Coast. He declared that this Mardi Gras season was historic, and to celebrate sent out this invite to-as he wrote it “all my far flung friends, relatives and associates”:
“You are all invited to my home at Music Street…for breakfast on Carnival Day. We will nourish ourselves on grits and grillades, pain perdu, coffee and Mimosas. We will spend the entire day celebrating… we will meet the Zulu King, and King Rex will toast his Queen. Our tears will flow. They will be tears of joy.”
Why not? I was game.
I spent a week and half as a volunteer cooking in a ragtag camp where students and others had come from all over the U.S. to help clean and gut homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. It was certainly an interesting experience-I often refer to it as the catering job from hell, although it certainly had its gratifying moments. People from all over the world dropped in to encourage us, to film what was going on, to bring supplies, and just generally do whatever they could to help.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. I was fortunate enough not to have to sleep in a dark and empty school auditorium, or camped in an outdoor tent as some did. I went home in the late afternoons to my brother’s shabby chic Victorian sidehall home (mostly unharmed) on the border of two historic New Orleans neighborhoods- the Faubourg Marginy and the Bywater, and it was that historic Carnival season, so we went out to the French Quarter in the evenings. Many restaurants and clubs had not yet reopened, but the ones that were, kept very busy. They were without great phone service (so making reservations was tricky- along with credit card payments), and understaffed, but the people of New Orleans were anxious to get back out to support their hotspots.
One of the early chefs to return to her restaurant was Susan Spicer of Bayona. You may remember me mentioning her before, and recommending her wonderful cookbook Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans. Ms. Spicer was busier than a one-armed paper hanger, getting the restaurant back up and running, working the line and expediting in her kitchen, ordering at night after the guests were fed, all while commuting on her weekends to Jackson, Mississippi where she and her family were living with her in-laws, as their home in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans had been destroyed.
Eric and I had a great meal at Bayona, starting with a complimentary amuse bouche sent out by the kitchen of a Crawfish Turnover in a Curried Cream Sauce, an appetizer of Asparagus Flan with Salmon, Lamb Loin with Goat Cheese and Zinfandel Sauce, Salmon with Choucroute and Gewurtraminer Sauce, ending with a Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding. But before those hit the table, a bread basket containing little rolls of Sweet Potato Brioche appeared. I devoured the brioche right away, and fortunately (I guess) for me, no more were forthcoming, since I probably would have stuffed myself with those and not had room for the rest of the meal. I never forgot those wonderful little rolls, though, so was very happy to see that Ms. Spicer’s cookbook included the recipe for them. Luckily for you, I’m sharing it with you now. Recipe follows: