Of course, sweet potatoes are delicious with butter and brown sugar but other than Thanksgiving (and the leftovers for breakfast the next day), I rarely eat them that way. I prefer my sweet potatoes on the savory side. With a little kick.
These twice-baked sweet potatoes get their kick from pepper jack cheese and caramelized onions. They’re filling but not heavy and I eat them as a vegetarian main dish. These potatoes also do well with a bit of added smokiness, so by all means, bacon them up with your favorite type of bacon (pork, soy, turkey, or coconut). Or add a pinch of smoked paprika instead.
Two large sweet potatoes will make four healthy servings.
2 large sweet potatoes, washed well and patted dry
Neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, or grapeseed)
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into small dice (about 1-1/2 cups total)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1-1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
2 TBS unsalted butter
3 TBS milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 scallion, chopped or 1 TBS fresh chives, chopped for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While the potatoes are baking, caramelize the onions. Heat a skillet on medium low heat. Add the olive oil, onion, ¼ tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Cook the onions for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are brown and sweet. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Bake the sweet potatoes. Place the sweet potatoes on a sheet pan. Poke several holes into each potato with a fork. Lightly coat the potatoes with oil.
Bake the sweet potatoes for 45 – 60 minutes or until they are soft on the inside (insert a knife) and the skins are crispy.
Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
Increase the oven to 425 degrees.
Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out most of the sweet potato from the skin leaving about ¼” of potato attached. Place the flesh of the sweet potatoes into a mixing bowl and put the skins back onto the sheet pan. Rub a bit of butter onto the inside of the skins and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Using a potato masher or ricer, mash the sweet potatoes. Stir in the butter and milk. Add 1 cup of the pepper jack cheese and the caramelized onions. Stir until well-combined and the cheese is melted. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Equally divide the sweet potato mixture into the prepared skins and spread it evenly. Top each sweet potato with the remaining ½ cup of pepper jack cheese (2 TBS per potato).
Place the potatoes back on the sheet pan and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
Garnish with chives or scallions and serve immediately.
Don’t Freak Out!
1) You can make these sweet potatoes a day before serving. After you fill the potato skins with the sweet potato mixture and top them with cheese, put them in a baking dish or on a sheet pan, cover with foil, and store in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 425. Ten minutes before baking, remove the potatoes from the refrigerator. Remove the foil. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
2) Make it vegan. Use vegan margarine instead of butter; unsweetened coconut milk (I don’t recommend using soy or any of the other plant-based milks as they tend to be too sweet) or vegetable broth or stock for the cow’s milk; and vegan mozzarella, cheddar, or pepper jack cheese. If you can’t find vegan pepper jack, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes or minced jalapeno (start with 1 tsp and add from there for desired spiciness).
3) When sweet potatoes bake, they tend to ooze a lot of liquid. This can leave a sticky residue on your pan that can be difficult to clean so you may want to line your sheet pan with aluminum foil.