Sweet Potatoes and Bacon!

So, things have been a little dessert-heavy around here lately. I feel like that always seems to happen this time of year. Our CSA is still a few months away, and it’s not light enough in the evenings to get any decent pictures of dinner. And, let’s be honest, I’ve kind of been on a dessert kick, and I don’t see that ending any time soon. In an attempt to keep things balanced, I figured I’d talk about the sweet potatoes that I made for our Easter dinner. 😉

I actually first made these for Friendsgiving. I spent a lot of time flipping through cookbooks and magazines, searching for the perfect dishes to round out the menu. Sweet potatoes aren’t usually my first choice when it comes to sides (mostly because I like white potatoes better), but when I saw the picture in the Thanksgiving issue of Southern Living, I was immediately interested. And with good reason, too. I mean, there’s bacon, after all. Do I really need to say more?

Fine. It’s also super easy, AND it cooks in the crock pot. This means that you can get the potatoes going before church and come home to a great lunch, or free up stove / oven space during a big meal. Of course, it’s one of those crock pot recipes that only cooks for 4 hours, so unless you have one of those fancy crock pots with a timer, it’s not ideal for a workday meal.

Frozen concentrate isn’t an ingredient that I typically have on hand, but since the unused portion keeps well in the freezer (obviously), I figured  I could just use keep the extra for another batch. As long as we liked them, anyway. Which we did. So much so, in fact, that I made the full batch for Easter, even though it was just the two of us.

The picture won’t win any food blogger photo awards, but you can only take pictures for so long before you give in and eat the food. 🙂


Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

4 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ thick slices
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a 5-6 quart crock pot.

Mix the concentrate, butter, brown sugar and salt together and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Stir the potatoes until they are well-coated with the butter/sugar/concentrate mixture.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours, or until potatoes are tender. (The original recipe says to cook for 5-6 hours, but I found that the longer time turned the potatoes into mush. Maybe my crock pot runs hot?) 

When the potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving dish. Whisk the cornstarch and water together, and then whisk it into the juice in the bottom of the crock pot. Turn the crock pot temperature to high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, orange zest and garlic. Sprinkle the parsley mixture over the potatoes and top with the crumbled bacon. Serve warm.

From Southern Living, November 2015

Click here for a printable version.


Twice Baked Awesomeness

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. 

Sweet & Spicy Spuds

OK, here’s your chance for something not sweet and calorie-laden. (What can I say? It’s Christmas time, and I have been doing a lot of baking. ‘Tis the season, you know.) So, make yourself a salad and roast some of these up. You know, so you don’t have to feel guilty about that second (or third or fourth… I won’t judge) Christmas cookie. 🙂

These guys are my favorite way to make sweet potatoes. They’re quick, easy, and tasty. What more do you need? And they give me another use for the jar of Old Bay in my cupboard.

We enjoyed these with our grilled burgers last week. Talk about an excellent Friday night dinner!

Old Bay Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2-3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If desired, peel sweet potatoes. (I peeled mine this time, as these were some of the sweet potatoes from our late season CSA share, and they had some nooks and crannies that needed to be removed.) Dice potatoes into chunks about half an inch in diameter. (Size isn’t as important as having all of the pieces roughly the same size so they cook evenly.) 

In a medium bowl, toss the potato chunks with the olive oil. When the potatoes are coated, sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning and toss to coat.

Spread the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for until cooked through and golden, roughly 20 minutes, stirring once. Serve warm.

From Everyday Food Magazine, January 2010