MAKE AHEAD: The soup, without the sweet potato cubes, can be made up to 4 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.
This silky, delicate soup is often the most talked-about dish of the evening when I serve it. It’s a tribute to Mexico’s African heritage. For centuries we Mexicans were taught that our Mestizo heritage was the result of intermarriage between the Spanish and the indigenous people of Mexico. But the African component to our history that dates as far back as the Spanish conquest, a result of several factors, including the slave trade, migration from the Caribbean, and the Africans who came along with the Spanish as conquistadores, was long overlooked. Afro-Mexico is finally getting its due, and even has a name—The Third Root.
- ¼ cup canola or safflower oil
- Kosher or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, chipotle chile powder, or paprika or to taste
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (about 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 10 scallions (light green and white parts only), thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 (14-ounce) cans hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, and sliced
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet or baking dish with parchment or foil.
- In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, the chile powder or paprika, and pepper. Add the sweet potato and toss until thoroughly coated.
- Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, taking care not to overcrowd. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping and turning them halfway through, until golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large heavy pot, heat the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat until the butter is melted and bubbling. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely softened, 12 to 14 minutes.
- Raise the heat to medium, add the hearts of palm, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, until heated through. Add the broth and ½ teaspoon salt, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- In batches, pour the soup into a blender and puree until completely smooth, holding down the lid of the blender with a towel to contain the pressure from the hot soup. Pour the soup back into the pot, stir, taste, and adjust the seasonings. Reheat if necessary before serving.
- Ladle the soup into individual bowls, spoon about ¼ cup sweet potatoes into the middle of each bowl, and sprinkle the chives around the sweet potatoes.