It's that time of year when I start to wonder how to jazz up the seasonal flavors used for some of our favorite holiday sides to give them new life.

I was flipping through a magazine while at the market and saw a photo of a gorgeous Thanksgiving table, and right smack-dab in the middle, next to the golden glistening bird, was a dish of old-school mashed sweet potatoes piled in a mound, dotted with whole pecans.

Immediately, a second sweet-potato dish came to mind -- that of the burnt-marshmallow-topped casserole, the culprit that has set off many a smoke detector right before the big meal.

Out with the old, and in with the new! This week, we are trying Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Whipped Goat Cheese.

Chef's Note: Citrus zest is the delicate, colorful, very top layer of the citrus skin. Use a fine grater or a tool called a zester to gently remove just this colorful outer part, as the fibrous white beneath can taste bitter. To get the most flavor out of zest before grating, press firmly down on the citrus with your palm and roll it around on a cutting board until the fruit softens slightly. This releases the essential oils in the citrus skin, making the most zesty of zest.

Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer, chef instructor and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/ yourpersonalchef.


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Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Whipped Goat Cheese

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes, weighing about 3/4 lb. each

4 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature

4 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

2 tbsp. maple syrup

2 cloves garlic, pasted or minced

1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives, more for garnish

Zest of 1 lemon

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed

Additional butter, as needed

Directions

1. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the potatoes at 425 degrees for 1 hour, until they are softened and fully cooked through. A toothpick should slide easily into the center with no resistance. If the potatoes are not completely soft, continue baking in 10-minute increments until they are. Remove the potatoes from the oven, and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Combine the goat cheese, butter, maple syrup, chopped chives, lemon zest, cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper to a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer), whip the ingredients on medium-low speed until light and fluffy and thoroughly combined. Remove about 4 tbsp. of the mixture and set aside for topping the potatoes later.

3. When the potatoes have cooled to the touch, cut them in half length-wise. Scoop out the insides, leaving about a quarter-inch "wall" around the edge of each potato half. Fold the scooped-out insides into the whipped goat-cheese mixture, and gently beat on low speed until completely incorporated. Taste the mixture and seasons with additional salt and pepper as desired.

4. Fill each hollowed-out potato half with a scoop of the whipped filling. Place the filled potato halves back onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and top each with a thin sliver of butter. Bake for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are golden-brown and warmed throughout. Serve each with a dollop of the reserved whipped goat-cheese mixture, and a sprinkling of freshly chopped chives.