Stuffed sweet potatoes with chipotle black beans and greens

Most of the recipes I post on this blog are one-offs. They’re things I dream up, cook, photograph, eat, enjoy, and then never make again. But every so often a new recipe is so simple, so tasty, and so adaptable that it wriggles its way into my regular rotation and lives there for months before it ends up here. This is one of those.

I got the idea for these stuffed sweet potatoes from a brilliant recipe over at The Kitchn. The basic premise is this: you scrub and roast a few sweet potatoes until they’re squishy all the way through. (Use small sweet potatoes, since they’ll cook more quickly and give a better flesh-to-filling ratio.) Sweat an onion, garlic, and a few flavorings in oil, then add a bunch of chopped greens and a splash of some flavorful liquid. Let the greens wilt for a few minutes, then stir in a drained can of beans and warm the whole thing through. Cut a slit in each sweet potato, drizzle the flesh with oil or butter, and pile it high with the filling. Grab a fork and a steak knife, and devour, skin and all.

That’s the outline, and I’ve had a lot of fun filling it in. Sweet potatoes need strong flavors to cut through their baby-food sweetness, and the best fillings I tried are tangy, smoky, and spicy all at once. The original recipe used white beans, shallot, rosemary, fresh lemon, and chile flakes. I’ve also done a Spanish-inspired version, with chickpeas, sweet onion, smoked paprika, and preserved lemon. But this version is my favorite so far: black beans, red onion, chipotle, and lime. Based on a few rounds of trial and error, I recommend using a bit more chipotle than you might otherwise like; even if the filling is searingly spicy when you taste it from the pan, the sweet potato will tromp all over it. Be brave.

One other great thing about this recipe: it’s made to be made ahead. You can freeze the filling in portions, and bake the sweet potatoes a few days in advance; just reheat as many portions as you need in the microwave. During the last couple months of 2014, when I was commuting two hours each way to work, I’d come home and throw together a potato as a late dinner. Since New Year’s, I’ve been working from home, and eating these as a hearty desk lunch. And if I ever burn out on this flavor combination, I’ll just start experimenting with others.

chipotle stuffed sweet potato 2

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Black Beans and Greens (serves 4)

A mash-up of recipes from The Kitchn and Whole Foods

Note: This recipe calls for opening a can of chipotles without using them all. I know that’s obnoxious, so here’s my solution: whenever I open a new can, I dump the contents straight into a food processor and blend them into a paste. I measure out whatever I’m going to use for the recipe at hand, then dollop the rest onto a baking sheet in 1-tsp portions. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a zip-top bag, and you’ve got pre-portioned chipotle paste ready to use right out of the freezer.

4 small sweet potatoes (no more than 8 oz each)

1 bunch (about 3/4 lb) chard, curly kale, or lacinato (dinosaur) kale

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Salt to taste

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp minced or pureed chipotles in adobo (from a 7-oz can), or to taste (see note)

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed OR 1 1/2 cups cooked and drained black beans

Melted butter or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Crumbled queso fresco for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400º F, and position a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then lightly grease the foil. Scrub the sweet potatoes clean, then prick them in a few places with a fork. Place the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until they’re very tender all the way through.

While the sweet potatoes roast, stem the greens, then chop them into 1-inch ribbons. Set aside.

In a large deep skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add garlic and chipotle and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute. Add greens, lime juice, and lime zest. Cover the pan and let the greens steam for about 5 minutes, or until they’re wilted. Add beans and cook, stirring, for another 1-2 minutes, or until the beans are warmed through. Season with salt to taste, then turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and keep the filling mixture warm while the sweet potatoes finish roasting.

When the sweet potatoes are tender, remove them from the oven. Use a sharp knife to make a deep slit lengthwise into each potato, then push the ends together a bit to open up the inside. Season the inside of each sweet potato with salt, then drizzle the inside with melted butter or olive oil, and use a fork to mash the butter into the flesh. Scoop about a quarter of the filling into each sweet potato, and sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco (if using). Serve immediately.

Both the sweet potatoes and the filling can be cooked ahead of time. The baked sweet potatoes will keep, tightly wrapped in foil, in the fridge for up to a week. The filling will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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