Dinner in 35 Minutes Louisiana Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash 4 servings

North Carolina native James Villas knows sweet potatoes. In his upcoming "The Glory of Southern Cooking" (Wiley, March 2007, $34.95), he praises Louisiana's contributions to that vegetable: the state's grading system; the Beauregard, his favorite variety; and this satisfying hash, made by Louisiana cooks who serve it for breakfast as well as supper.

The author told us last week via e-mail that his home state's sweet potatoes taste just as good as Beauregards but are not as pretty to look at, because No. 1-grade Beauregards are uniform and virtually defect-free. He says it's not necessary to peel any potatoes for this recipe; just clean them well and remove any eyes or spots.

At this time of year, you might find more North Carolina than Louisiana sweet potatoes in the produce department of Washington area grocers; the supply of the best Beauregards is dwindling and won't last past early March, Villas says.

We adapted his recipe by substituting nonfat half-and-half for the full-fat variety, saving fat and calories without sacrificing flavor or texture. Serve with corn bread.

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (2 to 3 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (without tenderloins)

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely chopped (1 1/2 to 2 cups)

1 medium green bell pepper, seeded, cored and finely chopped (1 1/4 cups)

1 medium clove garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


Freshly ground black pepper

3 scallions, white and tender green parts, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup nonfat half-and-half

Place the cubed sweet potatoes in a large pan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, poach the chicken: Cut the breasts in half vertically, place them in a large skillet and add just enough water (or low-sodium chicken broth) to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through and tender. Drain, transfer to a work surface and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Clean out the skillet and place the butter in it to melt over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the vegetables have softened. Add the paprika and the dried thyme, crumbling it between your fingers, then the salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine for 1 minute. Add the chicken, sweet potatoes, scallions, parsley and half-and-half. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the hash is thickened and "tight."

Per serving: 381 calories, 31 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 84 mg cholesterol, 5 g saturated fat, 331 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

-- Bonnie S. BenwickSO MANY QUESTIONS... {vbar} A Further Conversation From Our Weekly Online Chat Bedford, Pa.:In case my wildest dreams come true and I am cooking in a French gite this summer, I'd like to know how to make Peruvian chicken. (Even if my wildest dreams don't come true, I'd like to know the secret of Peruvian chicken.) Thanks!

Walter Nicholls: At the dozens of restaurants in the Washington area that serve Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, I've never found a chef who was willing to part with a recipe. They always use the word "secret." Still, from place to place, with bits and pieces of information, I have pieced together the procedure and ingredients but, unfortunately, not the proportions. For a marinade: Combine paprika, ground cumin, oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, white vinegar, white wine and a light cooking oil. Place the bird in a plastic bag with the marinade and refrigerate for 24 hours. The cooking method, of course, is the key: Do you have a rotisserie? Get it going, start the chicken, and let the self-basting begin.

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TO DO FRIDAY:Napa Valley wine class, with tastings and hors d'oeuvres, offered by Anne Arundel Community College and Wine Cellars of Annapolis. $64 nonresidents. Must be 21 or older. 7-9 p.m. 1410 Forest Dr., Annapolis. 410-777-2325.

SATURDAY:Wine tasting with live music at Tarara Winery. $5 tasting fee. Noon-4 p.m. 13648 Tarara Lane, Leesburg. 703-771-7100 or http://www.tarara.com.

SUNDAY:Kosher for Passover wine tasting. $45 nonmembers. Proceeds benefit Bet Mishpachah. 4-6:30 p.m. Universalist National Memorial Church, 1810 16th St. NW. 301-927-5980 or http://www.betmish.org.

MONDAY:Guest Chef Demonstration Series features Lucie Yeakel, owner of Patisserie Lucie. Offered by Baltimore International College's Culinary Arts Center. Free. Reservations required. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 210 S. Central Ave., Baltimore. 410-752-4710, Ext. 418, or http://www.bic.edu.

MONDAY:Menu and beer pairing tastings. $50 includes tax and tip. 6-8 p.m. Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown, 3282 M St. NW. 202-337-4936 or info@eatyourpizza.com.

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TUESDAY:Blind tasting of wines. Free. 7 p.m. Whole Foods Market, 7511 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. 703-448-1600.


FEB. 28:"Celebrate Women Chefs": More than 35 of the area's top female chefs prepare hors d'oeuvres, entrees and desserts to sample. $250. Proceeds benefit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. 6:30 p.m. Ritz-Carlton, 1150 22nd St. NW. 202-331-1332.

-- Leigh Lambert

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