Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

Sweet potatoes are one of nature’s nutritional powerhouses. They contain a wealth of orange-hued carotenoid pigments as well as being an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a very good source of vitamin C and manganese and are a good source of copper, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B5 and potassium.

And I shouldn’t forget, they also taste like dessert.

Here’s a recipe from Elizabeth Karmel, a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York, in which baked potatoes star in a main-course role.

This recipe for “loaded sweet potatoes”  also features kale, another highly nutritious vegetable, roasted garlic and cheese.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Garlic
3 heads garlic
Olive oil
Kosher salt
4 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Pinch dried sage
1 large shallot, chopped
1 bunch (about 5 ounces) baby or chopped Tuscan kale
½ cup grated fontina cheese
Ground black pepper, to taste
½ to 1 cup shredded white cheddar, Gruyere or mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
Roasted chicken (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the outer layer of papery skin from the heads of garlic. Slice off ¼ inch from the narrow end of each. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, on a square of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle each with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Wrap the foil loosely up and over the garlic heads, then roast for 1 hour, or until golden-brown and soft. Remove and let cool.
Meanwhile, prick the sweet potatoes with a fork, then rub them with oil. Add them to the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tender.
Once the garlic has cooled enough to handle, remove the cloves from their skins. The most efficient way to do this is to squeeze the whole head from the bottom. In a small food processor, combine the garlic, butter, sage and a pinch of salt, then pulse until chopped and combined. Set aside.
About 15 minutes before the potatoes have finished, in a medium saute pan over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallot and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the kale, and saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until tender. Set aside.
When the potatoes have finished baking, remove them from the oven and let them cool until easy to touch. Leave the oven on. Cut the potatoes lengthwise down the middle and scoop out about half of the flesh from each, making sure to keep a thick layer of sweet potato within the skin so that it can stand on its own.
In a bowl, mash the sweet potato, the roasted garlic mixture and the fontina cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the filling between each potato, spooning it into the shell of each. Top with your choice of shredded cheese and the hot sauteed kale.
Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet and return to the oven until hot, about 15 minutes. They also can be microwaved for 2 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with pumpkin seeds and chicken, if desired.
Note: If you want to get a jump on things, the garlic can be roasted and mixed with the butter and salt up to 2 days in advance. Just refrigerate until needed.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving (not including optional chicken and pumpkin seeds): 230 calories, 52 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (6 grams saturated, no trans), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 8 grams protein, 270 milligrams sodium.

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