Did you have big plans for Valentine’s Day? A fancy dinner somewhere, or a romantic weekend away? Not us. Andy firmly believes that it’s a holiday engineered by Hallmark and FTD, and he’s lucky he married a girl who doesn’t get hung up on stuff like that. 🙂
Instead of an overpriced dinner out, we had a great dinner in with some of our favorite friends. Karen picked out the wine, made salad and baked an awesome chocolate cheesecake. I volunteered to bring steak and sweet potatoes. The steak was easy – I turned it over to the guys and let them work their magic on the grill. (Yes, the grill. It warmed up to about 20 degrees last weekend… hello grilling weather!)
I went with the twice-baked sweet potatoes from Cook’s Illustrated. I’d made them once before, and they earned five stars on the Andy scale. I mean, there’s a crispy, buttery breadcrumb topping and a filling spiked with Parmesan cheese. But as I was making them again, I started to worry that they weren’t going to be quite good enough for our Friday night feast. What if the first time was just a fluke?
My concerns were completely unfounded. They were just as good the second time, and the four of us devoured every crumb. In fact, I *might* like them a little more than regular twice-baked potatoes, and that’s saying something.
Amazingly enough (especially for a CI recipe), this one is easy enough for a weeknight. I made these after I got home from work on Friday, and we were ready to leave for dinner in less than an hour. The microwave gives you a head-start with the potatoes, and once they’re stuffed and topped, they only bake for 20 minutes. So while they look (and taste) like a special occasion dinner, there’s no reason not to make them tonight. 🙂
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
4 8-ounce sweet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed (nicely shaped, if you can find them)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 shallots, thinly sliced
4-6 slices of French bread, cut into 1/8″ – 1/4″ cubes*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (one ounce), divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Lightly prick the sweet potatoes with a fork, then place in the microwave. Cook potatoes until they’re easily pierced by a toothpick and the sides of the potato yield to a gentle squeeze. This takes about 9-12 minutes, depending on your microwave and sweet potatoes. Flip the potatoes about every 3-4 minutes while they are cooking. Set them aside to cool slightly.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the bread crumb topping. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. (I love my cast iron one for this.) Add the shallots to the melted butter and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are lightly browned and tender.
Mix the breadcrumbs, thyme and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl. Pour the butter and shallot mixture over the breadcrumbs and gently mix until the breadcrumbs are all coated in butter.
Preheat oven to 425. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop the sweet potato flesh out and place in a large mixing bowl, leaving about a 1/4″ margin around the edge of the sweet potato skin. Place the empty potato skins on a large baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until shells are slightly dry and crispy. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 375.
Mash the sweet potato with a potato masher until smooth. (I used both my hand masher and my hand mixer.) Stir the beaten egg, remaining Parmesan cheese and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the potato.
Choose six potato skins to fill. (That’s probably all of the filling you’ll have, but I wait to choose my shells until after they bake. That way, I don’t end up short if one gets a little too crispy in the oven.) Divide the sweet potato mixture between the skins, and top them with the breadcrumb mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until filling is puffed and the breadcrumbs are golden. Remove from oven and enjoy.
From Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2013
*CI calls for two slices of “hearty white sandwich bread,” something that I don’t have on hand and didn’t buy. I used several slices of French bread instead, since they were smaller than a standard piece of sandwich bread. It worked just fine.
Click here for printable version.