November 19, 2015 10:55 AM

Courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

I use the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving auditioning side dishes to see if they are going to make the cut.

I always spend some time fiddling with various squashes and sweet potatoes because everyone loves them so much. I also love a side dish that can be made up to the very last step and then just heated and arranged on a patter.

Let’s face it, menu planning for Thanksgiving has to have a bit more strategic than just all the things we love to eat. I try to balance a few stovetop side dishes with a few that can be made in the oven. That way, I avoid a lot of side dish gridlock as the meal leaves the kitchen.

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This sweet potato recipe is a great oven side dish. Make it in advance, arrange the stiffed potatoes on a baking sheet and simply heat through and serve.

The most important thing in the entire recipe is to fully cook the sweet potatoes before cutting them open and mixing the filling. An under baked potato has a starchy, tasteless way of ruining the party. I buy medium to small-sized potatoes because they are often more tender, sweeter and take less time to cook.

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Serves: 4-8

4 medium sweet potatoes

1 cup blanched almonds, coarsely chopped

⅔ cup all-purpose flour

⅓ cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. dry ginger

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and divided

2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Bake the potatoes: Place the sweet potatoes in the center of the oven and bake until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 1 hour to an hour and a half, depending on size of potatoes.

3. Make the topping: Prepare a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the almonds, flour, sugar, dry ginger and salt. Stir to blend. Work 5 tbsp. of butter in with your fingers. Sprinkle to topping onto the baking sheet to break it up into smaller clumps. Refrigerate.

4. Prepare the potatoes: When the potatoes are fully cooked, split them in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the flesh inside. Arrange the sweet potato halves on a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato with 3 tbsp. of butter, fresh ginger, red wine vinegar and orange zest. Season with salt. Spoon the filling back into each potato half and top liberally with the topping. Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake until the crust browns, 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

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