A Note Of Thanks

Nov 23, 2015

Volunteers bag vegetables at Saturday's Senior Nutrition and Produce Event at Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church.
Credit Amy Rogers / WFAEats

For a reporter the rule is pretty simple: You’re there to do a job, not be a guest at the event you’re covering.

Last week, I wrote about the free Senior Nutrition and Produce Event that was coming up on Saturday. Eager to learn more about the effort, that morning I got in the truck and drove over to Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church. Before the sun had risen high enough to warm the cold morning air, dozens of folks had already lined up to receive a share of the fresh vegetables trailered into Charlotte by South Carolina farmers. 

Volunteers bagged collards and cabbages, added sweet potatoes, and passed the bundles down the line, which moved quickly. I made a few notes about the cluster of tents on the lawn where church members were selling snacks, fish sandwiches, and holiday decorations to raise funds for their programs.

I was headed back to the street when organizer Jillian Hishaw of F.A.R.M.S. stopped me. “Please don’t leave yet; we’re about to start the cooking demonstrations,” she said.

That’s when I saw the buffet trays of sweet potato hash, pasta with ribbons of collard greens, and the curly-cabbage pot-stickers. Chef Jarrel McRae, from Le’rraj and Se’maj Hospitality Group, began serving up his healthy versions of traditional Southern recipes and insisting everyone try each dish. My “reporter’s hat” came off.

I ditched my phone and picked up a fork.

The personable chef enticed the crowd to sample some unfamiliar ingredients as he explained easy recipe substitutions any cook can make: agave or maple syrup instead of refined sugar, olive oil instead of saturated fats, searing instead of deep-frying. 

This is the part of the story where I’d have a quote from the chef – if I’d been taking notes on McRae’s work and not taking bites of it. So I messaged him Monday morning and asked if he’d share a recipe, which he generously agreed to do.

Sweet potato hash.
Credit Amy Rogers / WFAEats

I’ll be making my first Sweet Potato “Hash” on Thursday, November 26 this year, and I’ll be giving thanks for all the stories it’s my privilege to share with you.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Sweet Potato “Hash” by Chef Jarrel McRae

5 sweet potatoes
2 onions
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups olive oil

Preheat over to 375 degrees.

Wash, peel, and cut the sweet potatoes into a large dice, and do the same with the onions.

In a large mixing bowl toss together spices, thyme, potatoes, onions, and oil. Coat potatoes and onions well (at this point, Chef instructs: “Say a little prayer.”). Then roast in oven for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Serve hot or at room temperature. Pairs well with Greek yogurt, or as an accompaniment with any meat dish.

Four to six servings