I could eat a couple of these every day and be happy. Three of my favorites; bacon, cinnamon, and sweet potatoes in one dish, a little smoky, a little savory, a little salty, and a little sweet, my perfect combination. As you can see from the pictures, I've served this with several barbecue/grilled meals.
Twice-baked sweet potatoes make a wonderful side for a barbecue, you can make a few, or a lot, and prepare them a day in advance. Complete the second baking on the grill (or in the oven), the potato shells stay firm, keeping the filling warm. They're topped with a bread and bacon topping that gets nice and crispy giving great texture. If you're so inclined you can eat the shells too, leaving no waste (and if we don't want them, I have two dogs always willing to finish them).
I recently served these at a family Father's day get-together, along with regular twice baked potatoes, and was thrilled to see my family enjoying them as much as the classic version. They go perfectly with many pork dishes, and we ate them last night with grilled steaks, I almost always make extra for leftovers and reheat a couple for lunch the next day or two.
I was inspired to make these by combining a couple versions Cook's Illustrated did for twice-baked sweet potatoes. I hope your family will love these too, enjoy!
Recipe inspired by: Cook's Illustrated, November 2013 issue
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
4 small sweet potatoes (8 ounces each), unpeeled, each lightly pricked with fork in 3 places (I often modify this recipe to make extra potatoes as you'll see in the pictures, this amount of filling is for four potatoes)
5 slices bacon, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (I use thick-cut bacon from a butcher, if your bacon is thin, use 7 or 8 slices)
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces (I often use wheat or multigrain bread)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Step 2: Make Topping
Cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to paper-towel lined plate, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper, until combined. Add in the thyme, bread pieces, and cooked bacon, drizzle with 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat and toss to combine. Set aside.
Step 3: Cook Potatoes
You have the option of grilling your sweet potatoes to cook them, they'll take around 60-75 minutes on a 375-degree heated grill (you could bake at the same temp.) I find the fastest method is to microwave them, they'll take anywhere from 10-16 minutes depending on the size of potato, and power of your microwave.
Place fork-pricked sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate, cook on high, turning potatoes every 3 minutes, until a paring knife slides easily into the flesh. Some potatoes may cook faster than others, remove cooked ones from microwave and continue cooking until all the sweet potatoes are cooked.
Let rest 10 minutes.
To crisp the skins you have another grill/oven option, I often make these a day ahead, so prep them inside using the oven, and finish them on the grill. If you are cooking same day, and want to use the grill, preheat the grill to 400-425 degrees, set up for INDIRECT grilling (keep primary burner on, and turn off those that you'll cook the sweet potatoes over). Otherwise, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Halve each potato lengthwise, use a spoon (I prefer a melon baller) to scoop the flesh into a ricer, or a food mill (if you intend to hand mash, scoop the potato flesh into a large bowl), leaving 1/4-inch thickness of flesh on the potatoes. Rice the sweet potatoes into a large bowl, you may need to do this in batches, I usually rice 3-4 potato halves at once.
Place the shells, cut side up, on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet (I line the baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.) Bake until shells are dry and slightly crispy, 10-15 minutes. If you intend to eat the shells, and have extra bacon grease around (like any good Midwestern family should!), rubbing the outside of the shells with some bacon grease prior to baking/grilling will only improve them!
While the shells bake, mash the sweet potatoes with the melted butter, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, egg, and 1/2 tsp. salt until smooth.
Remove the shells from oven. (If you want to complete baking in the oven, reduce temperature to 375 degrees.)
Step 4: Fill Sweet Potatoes, Grill, and Enjoy
If you don't already have your grill on, preheat for about 15 minutes on medium-high heat. (I have a gas grill, so I can easily turn burners off, you want to set up your grill for indirect heating if using charcoal.)
Divide sweet potato filling between potato shells, you want the filling to be level with tops of potatoes, not overflowing, so there's room for the topping. Top each filled shell with the bread mixture, I try to push some into the sweet potato filling so it stays in place. At this point you can let cool, then cover, and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Let sweet potatoes sit at room temperature an hour before grilling.
After grill is preheated, keep primary burner on, and turn other burner(s) off, you'll grill the potatoes over indirect heat, meaning over the turned OFF burners. You want the temp. to be between 350 and 375 degrees. Keeping sweet potatoes on baking sheet, put baking sheet on grill, close lid and grill potatoes until filling is hot, and bread topping is crispy, 20 to 25 minutes. You can also bake them at 375 degrees for the same amount of time.
Remove from grill and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.
Leftover twice-baked sweet potatoes can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator up to three days. I reheat them in my toaster oven 10-14 minutes on 350.