Baked Sweet Potato with Shiitake Bacon

We got ourselves a surfeit of sweet potatoes this week. We decided to dice and roast some for adding to grain bowls, but we were still left with a few big ones. Jocelyn had the brilliant idea for a baked sweet potato recipe, covered with toppings that feel decadent but are actually really healthy.

Baked Sweet Potato: A Sweeter Take on a Classic

Turns out a baked sweet potato is just like a baked potato! People probably already knew this, but I’m slow. Don’t judge me. Anyway, we all know that what makes a baked potato isn’t the potato itself, but the toppings. We were determined to find a combination of toppings that felt rich and delicious, but was also decently healthy. We settled on some “cheese” sauce, avocados, crispy fried onions, and some shiitake bacon.

Now I, like all right thinking people, was skeptical of this whole shiitake bacon idea. Before we started eating vegetarian, I was a fan of bacon. The internet’s extreme enthusiasm for bacon in everything ever blunted my appreciation, but I still had fond memories of it. I was skeptical that making something out of mushrooms and calling it bacon would be anything but a cruel joke.

Guys? This shiitake bacon is no joke.

For real, it’s meaty and salty and smoky and just really wonderful. Much more than I could ever have imagined. So run, don’t walk, to your nearest sweet potato monger and demand several of his or her finest sweet potatoes. You’ve got a meal to make.

Baked Sweet Potato

Ingredients:

Two big sweet potatoes
One batch nacho cheese sauce
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tsp smoked paprika
Avocado, cubed or mashed
As many crispy fried onions as you can handle

Directions:

Bake sweet potatoes (about an hour at 350° F, or you can microwave if you’re in hurry).

While the potatoes are baking, marinate mushrooms in soy sauce, olive oil, and paprika for about half an hour. Sautée until crisp (about ten minutes). This is the shiitake bacon.

Cover the sweet potatoes with all the toppings and shove in your face.

Fried Onions, How I Love Thee

Neither Jocelyn nor I are crazy about onions. I’ve mellowed on my opinion about them over the years, but they’re still not my favorite. I love cooking with them, but that’s usually only been the case as long as they’re hidden deeply enough in a dish to be mostly imperceptible. A little while ago, we made a recipe that called for crispy fried onions, and that all changed.

Fried Onions: A Garnish Whose Time Has Come

These are the simplest things to make, and they’re basically the most delicious food that has ever been devised by man. We’re lucky if they last long enough to make it to the main dish they’re being made for, since they’re so easy to absentmindedly snack on. I honestly can’t stop going on about how good these are.

See? I’m still going on. They’re salty and crispy and a little bit sweet, and on their own they’re delicious, but they also help add a depth of flavor to all sorts of dishes. I’ve honestly got to stop or I’m going to run downstairs and devour the whole big container we made to last us all week*.

*In the interest of integrity and transparency I feel it is incumbent on me to tell you that I did go downstairs right after writing this and eat a handful of these things. I have neither pride nor shame.

We use these things on top of tons of dinners. We’re going to have a lot of veggie and grain bowls this week, and these will make a perfect accompaniment. Last night we had a baked sweet potato (about which more later), and these were just a stunner of a topping. Seriously, go find some onions, cut them up, and make these. You won’t regret it at all.

An onion, unfried Fried onions

Ingredients:

3 onions
1/3 cup brown rice flour
Generous amount of salt
Oil for frying

Directions:

Slice the onions as thin as you can make them without slicing any part of your fingers off. Toss with flour and half your salt. Heat the oil until shimmering. Fry onions until golden or darker, whatever your preference. As they cool toss with more salt. Try not to eat all of them, with the expectation that you’ll probably deliciously fail.