Fall has barely arrived here in Ottawa and I’m already buried in succulent braises, creamy, gut-hugging soups, slow roasted veggies and way too many apple-cinnamon dessert (if that’s possible?). These incredibly tasty stuffed sweet potato skins throw a nod to my favourite taco fillings from the summer while embracing the slow, hearty flavours that the biting chill in the air has you craving. Unless you have some time off during the weekdays, I’d say this is a weekend recipe since the potatoes and carnitas take a few hours together. But if you go ahead and pre-roast the potatoes and make the carnitas on a Sunday, you’ve got lunch or dinner prepper for the week! Throw a salad or some soup on the side and it’s a big hearty meal.
Crispy Carnita Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins with Salsa Verde and Manchego
serves 4-6 as appetizer or side
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 3lb pork butt/shoulder, cut into 1″ strips
1 cup 100% orange juice
juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp salt
3 cups water
4 small-medium sweet potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 medium avocado, pitted and skin removed
4 large tomatillo (about 1 1/2 cups rough chopped), cleaned and rough chopped
small handful cilantro (approx 1/4 cup chopped)
2 scallions, root ends removed
1 or 1/2 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp salt
Scallions, sliced thin
For the carnitas:
Place the cumin seeds in a large heavy pot (my favourite is an enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat and toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and toasted, about 4-5 minutes. Add the strips of pork, orange and lime juice, salt and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stir well and let sit untouched until liquid has reduced and the fat starts to render (about 1.5hours). If your pork is still pretty tough, add another cup of water or orange juice and let reduce again. At this point, turn the heat up slightly so the fat starts to melt and fry the pork. Cook until the strips of meat are crispy and falling apart. Turn if needed to make sure they don’t burn or stick to the pot. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the sweet potatoes:
Preheat oven to 375.
Rub potato halves down with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place potatoes cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast until tender, approximately 1 hour. This can be done 1 day in advance but be sure to bring your sweet potatoes and filling back to room temperature before you stuff them. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, gently scoop the flesh from each potato into a bowl. Mash with the cilantro and lime juice and taste for seasoning. Add salt if needed. It should be slightly on the acidic side since the salty meat and cheese will be topping it. Keep the oven going so you can heat everything through to serve.
For the Salsa Verde:
place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lime to taste.
Place potatoe skins on a baking sheet. Fill each with an equal amount of the sweet potato/cilantro/lime mixture. Top that with the carnitas and the manchego and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until potato skins and carnitas are starting to char and crisp around the edges. Remove from the oven, serve with a dollop of salsa verde, fresh cilantro, sliced scallions,