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Ground black pepper, to taste

½ to 1 cup shredded white cheddar, Gruyere or mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Roasted chicken (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the outer layer of papery skin from the heads of garlic. Slice off ¼-inch from the narrow end of each. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, on a square of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle each with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Wrap the foil loosely up and over the garlic heads, then roast for 1 hour, or until golden-brown and soft. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, prick the sweet potatoes with a fork, then rub them with oil. Add them to the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tender.

Once the garlic has cooled enough to handle, remove the cloves from their skins. The most efficient way to do this is to squeeze the whole head from the bottom. In a small food processor, combine the garlic, butter, sage and a pinch of salt, then pulse until chopped and combined. Set aside.

About 15 minutes before the potatoes have finished, in a medium saute pan on medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallot and saute until soft, about four minutes. Add the kale, and saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until tender. Set aside.

When the potatoes have finished baking, remove them from the oven and let them cool until easy to touch. Leave the oven on. Cut the potatoes lengthwise down the middle and scoop out about half of the flesh from each, making sure to keep a thick layer of sweet potato within the skin so that it can stand on its own.

In a bowl, mash the sweet potato, the roasted garlic mixture and the fontina cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the filling between each potato, spooning it into the shell of each. Top with your choice of shredded cheese and the hot sauteed kale.

Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet and return to the oven until hot, about 15 minutes. They also can be microwaved for 2 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with pumpkin seeds and chicken, if desired.

Kidding aside, sweet potatoes are just as good if not better than traditional baking potatoes in savory applications. My favorite one-bowl meal in winter is a loaded baked potato. And I often make it with sweet potatoes.

Around 5 p.m., I throw the potatoes in a 350-degree oven. I find that a lower oven temperature keeps the skin from falling apart, allowing you to split the potato in half and load it up. However, it does take twice as long for the potatoes to cook.

This year, I have been topping my potato with sauteed kale, which not only looks stunning — all that orange and green — but also is a perfect complement to the sweet “meaty” potato.

But that’s not all. I also roast garlic and make it into a paste to flavor the potato, folding in just a touch of butter and a pinch of sage. I scoop out half of the potato, mix it all together, add half the cheese and put it back into the shells like you would a twice-baked potato. At this point, the recipe can be made in advance and reheated another day.

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