During yesterday’s open locker room session with the press, team owner Robert Kraft and punter Zoltan Mesko talked to astronaut and Patriot super fan Sunita Williams aboard the International Space Station. Williams, who current holds the record for longest space flight by a woman, also spoke with Rob Gronkowski who jumped on the call when he saw Mesko doing something that could possibly take attention away from him. Reportedly Gronk’s first question was, “Are you floating right now?”

One would have to imagine Gronkowski also wanted to ask:

“Do you have salsa in space?”

“Can you see my house?”

“What does Tang taste like mixed with tequila?”

“Would you like to see my abs?”

No word on if Williams could confirm seeing Gronkowski’s ego from 230 miles above the Earth.

Chorizo Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins

It’s finally cold enough to appreciate the warm tastes of fall. Spices like cinnamon and cayenne, the hearty tastes of chorizo and sweet potato. Just as the first chill of the coming winter reminds you of football, the change in season brings with it a craving for snacks that heat you both inside and out.

Like most people, I’m a sucker for a good twice-baked potato or potato skins with bacon, chives and cheese, but sometimes they’re lacking the depth needed for a satisfying snack. Enter the sweet potato, the better-for-you version of a starchy vegetable. While chorizo is not any healthier for you than bacon, it does offer a smoky spiciness missing from most cured pork belly. By mixing the sweet potato with the chorizo before baking, you eliminate the need for cheese as a binding agent, saving just a few more calories so you don’t have to feel bad about taking a third or even fifth piece. (And if you want to be even healthier, soy chorizo is a good option for this snack.)

This recipe does take some time as you’ll be baking the sweet potatoes three times in the process of making these snacks, one more time than a normal potato skin. Don’t worry though, the extra fifteen minutes in the oven are worth your time.

You will need:

3-3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, even in size and length
3/4 pound Mexican style chorizo, about 3-4 chorizo links
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema for garnish (optional, but highly recommended)
Small bunch chives and cilantro for garnish (optional, but highly recommended)

Preheat oven to 400º.

Gently wash off the sweet potatoes (their skin tends to be rather fragile and keeping their outer shell intact is important for later) and then prick each tuber all over with a knife so steam can release while baking.

Place the sweet potatoes on a lined baking sheet and cook for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes for safer handling.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, reduce oven temperature to 350º and make your seasoning mixture. In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, ground cayenne and cracked pepper.

Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully slice each one in half. Using a small spoon, scoop out the soft sweet potato innards so they look like little orange boats, reserving the sweet potato meat. Sprinkle each sweet potato boat with the spice mixture — don’t worry if you don’t use it all — and return them to the oven for 10 minutes. This helps them firm back up so they can safely contain the chorizo filling.

As the sweet potato skins bake, remove the chorizo from the casings and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until browned. When the spicy sausage is just about done, add in 1 cup of the reserved sweet potato you scooped out earlier and mix until well combined. Remove from heat.

When both the sweet potato skins and the chorizo-sweet potato mixture are done, carefully spoon the meat-enhanced sweet potato innards back into the sweet potato hulls. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until melded back together.

Remove from the oven and allow to set for a minute or two. Slice each thrice-baked sweet potato into halves or thirds depending on how big you want your pieces and then top with a small amount of sour cream, chives and cilantro.

Serves 5-6 as a side, 3-4 very hungry people as a main snack.

These spicy bites were a big hit when I made them for the Sunday night match up between the Chargers and Saints last month and pretty much disappeared before the first quarter was over.

Need more football watching-centric recipe ideas? Find the complete archive of Football Foodie recipes here.