The garnet yam is a type of root vegetable native to South and Central America. Although it is called a yam, the tuber is actually a sweet potato. Throughout the United States, garnet yams tend to be the most frequently found yam in conventional grocery stores. The flesh of the yam is sweet and moist, often leading it to be paired with ingredients such as maple syrup and brown sugar. Even though many recipes accent the sweetness of garnet yams, there also are a number of savory preparations that can turn the versatile tuber into a sturdy and flavorful side dish for any meat entree.
The skin of uncooked garnet yams is a brownish-red, sometimes with a more golden tint. The flesh inside the tuber is a rich, brilliant orange, sometimes with a distinctive red undertone. This makes it easily identifiable from other types of sweet potatoes. When cooked, the skin of the yam tends to become leathery and fibrous and is not generally eaten because of this texture. The meat inside, however, can be roasted until very soft with a buttery taste and some sweetness that can be developed with further cooking.
One of the more well known uses for garnet yams is as a side dish for American Thanksgiving dinners. The dish usually involves baking the yams until they are soft and then pureeing them, mixing the flesh with brown sugar, maple syrup and other sweet ingredients. The mixture is baked, sometimes until the top has caramelized and sometimes with a layer of nuts on top. Different versions of the dish include glazing slices of the yams and roasting them until tender and candy-like, or even including fruits in the puree for added sweetness and texture.
Roasted garnet yams are very flexible and adapt well to different styles of cooking. One way they are used is mixed with eggs and formed into patties that can be fried and still retain a firm shape while developing a sweet crust on the outside. These patties can be filled with other ingredients, such as chard or cheese. They also can be used as an interesting presentation element for larger entrees such as salmon or pork.
Savory preparations of garnet yams are common as well. A type of yam hash can be made by pan frying cubes of the yams in olive oil along with ground pork or diced Italian sausages. The yams can be used alongside other vegetables, such as carrots, yucca or even traditional potatoes, to create mashed potatoes that have a surprising taste. Hard cheeses such as Parmesan couple well with the tuber, as do some younger cheeses, such as Gouda.