Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

The Thanksgiving recipe series is finished, and I want to share a few more fall-themed recipes before the next holiday arrives.  Christmas is so close, but it really doesn’t feel like it yet in Charlottesville.  It’s gorgeously sunny and 60 degrees today, hardly the typical weather for mid-December.  It keeps me in the fall spirit though, and ever since Thanksgiving, I’ve been crazy about sweet potatoes.  This recipe is simply an updated and upscale version of the mashed sweet potatoes I made for Thanksgiving.  They were so tasty, even my vegetable-phobic younger sister enjoyed them!

I began by baking large, local sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  The time for baking varies greatly depending on your potatoes, but you definitely want to wait until they are soft and tender, or else you will quickly tire out your arms trying to mash firm potatoes.  Also, I bake my sweet potatoes rather than boiling them because it allows the insides to caramelize a little bit and develop that rich, sweet taste and texture that I don’t think boiling achieves.

While the potatoes were baking, I made the topping which I call bacon, onion, bourbon jam.  I started by crisping finely chopping and then crisping about a half pound of bacon in a pan over low heat.  This also renders out some bacon fat to cook the onions in.  I used one large yellow onion, cut it into thin slices, and added it to the pan once the bacon was getting crispy.  I cooked that over low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the onions were caramelized and a deep golden color.  Towards the end, I added a good splash of bourbon and let it cook off for a few minutes.  Then I removed the jam from the heat until the sweet potatoes were ready to top.

When the sweet potatoes finished baking, I cut all the potatoes in half and very carefully spooned out the flesh into a large bowl.  I was trying to keep the skins intact just so that I could re-stuff them to serve in, but just peeling off the skins is the easiest method if you’re making regular mashed sweet potatoes.  Once all the flesh was collected in a bowl, I mashed it with a fork.  It should hopefully be soft enough that you don’t need any other gadgets to tackle this task, and I also like the way just mashing with a fork creates a nice texture (as opposed to pureeing, which I think would make it a little too much like baby food).  I seasoned the sweet potatoes with a generous amount of salt, a little splash of cream, and a good bit of melted butter.  Garlic, pepper, and olive oil would make great additions as well, but I was going for a sweeter profile.

Next begins the difficult procedure of stuffing the mixture back into the skins without breaking them.  I mistakenly didn’t leave any flesh in the skins to hold a shape, so they were very floppy and un-supportive of the mashed sweet potatoes.  They still made nice little serving bowls though!  I spooned some bacon, onion, bourbon jam on top of each stuffed potato and returned it to the oven to heat through.  I suppose these could even be made up ahead of time and then be re-baked right before dinner.

Here’s a shot of the twice-baked sweet potatoes topped with my special bacon jam:


We served the sweet potatoes with grilled pork chops from Avery’s Branch Farms last night, and the two were a match made in heaven!


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