Candied Yams

Bradrick "Coop" Cooper
  • Bradrick "Coop" Cooper

Recipe by Bradrick “Coop” Cooper of Coop’s West Texas Barbecue

I’ve always had this thing for cooking. I grew up in San Diego with my mom. She and my aunt owned a soul-food restaurant in the ’70s. It was called Fay’s Café and named after my aunt. My mom worked evenings and nights, so I cooked for my sister a lot. I made bacon and eggs and fried chicken. I could cook a steak when I was ten.

My dad lived in Midland, Texas, which is kind of like the middle of nowhere. When I went to visit him, I used to cook with my grandmother in the kitchen. She used to tell me, “There ain’t no guarantee that you’ll have a woman to cook for you.” She had me stirring beans, making candied yams, and cooking cornbread. I had to iron my own clothes. My grandmother was always teaching me something, even until her last day.

In 1996, I moved back to Texas with my kids and my dad made me some brisket and ribs that blew my mind. My dad said that if I ever got this down, I could make a good living from it. I didn’t grasp what he was saying until 2000, when I moved back to San Diego. I was dabbling with BBQ and playing around. I took some ribs and brisket into work and people were, like, “Man, you should sell this stuff.” I was a nurse for 11 years and brought food to my coworkers in the hospital. One of the things I love is to watch people’s faces light up when they eat my food.

My wife thought I was crazy for wanting to start my own restaurant, but I think when you have a unique talent, you want to share that talent. I do my BBQ Texas style with a dry rub of herbs and spices. We cook it dry in brick-oven smokers so the meat absorbs the flavors of the wood. The brisket cooks for 10 to 12 hours and the ribs for about 2 to 3. It’s an art. It really is. Everyone can’t do it well, but when someone can do it, everyone flocks to it.

Every Sunday at the restaurant now, I make candied yams in honor of my grandmother because she taught me so much. Hopefully you’ll serve these yams with some collard greens and cornbread. My family is full of good cooks. We weren’t gourmet chefs and we didn’t go to culinary school, but we’re good cooks.


Serves 4

1 stick of butter (divided use)

1 1/2 lbs. yams, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup sugar


Melt 1/2 stick of the butter in a medium-sized pot or heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Place the yams in the butter and cover with the remaining butter, vanilla, and sugar. Shake the skillet to spread the sugar evenly over the yam slices. When the yams are all coated, cover with a lid and reduce the heat. Cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the yams from sticking.

The sugar and butter mixture will form a sauce in which the yams should be almost submerged. After 25 minutes, pierce the yams with a fork to check for tenderness. Once they can be pierced easily, they are ready. Let them simmer gently over the heat for another ten minutes. Serve with collard greens and cornbread.

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