Friday, August 8, 2008

An oldie but a goodie: Twice Baked Potatoes

I don't know why I don't make these more often, they're delicious! And so easy.

This was one of my mom's staples when we were growing up, and I can see why. We loved them as kids, and they were easy for her to make. I'd say we had them at least once a month. For her though, they are/were a side dish. For me, these are actually going to be our main course (on this particular night) with a simple salad. If I were to add a protein somewhere, it would make for a healthier main dish, but I'm not going to sweat that.

Another thing I love about this recipe, it's very versatile. You can mix up the ingredients, add what sounds good, and it's always tasty. Keep with the basics of potato, cheese and sour cream, and you're good - to - go.

Twice Baked Potatoes:

4 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup shredded cheese, divided (I used a cheddar/emmentaler mix)
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

I also included:
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely

Some variations you can try:
- 3/4 cup broccoli, chopped to 1/4 inch pieces
- use blue cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons chives/green onion, chopped (Tim is a 'green thing' hater, so I tend to avoid chives, cilantro, spinach, etc. in most of my recipes. But chives are very popular in twice baked potatoes, give them a shot!)
- 1/4 cup cottage cheese, and 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- soy made bacon bits

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash, and fork* your potatoes. Place potatoes on a baking tray/cookie sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. Make sure they are cooked through, and remove from oven to partially cool.

* What is 'forking'? (mind out of the gutter, please) Take a fork, and poke the potato all over (20 pokes per potato should do it) to create holes for breathing and releasing heat during cooking.


Just out of the oven

While the potatoes are cooling, combine sour cream, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, milk and butter in a bowl and mix.

Turn down the oven to 350 degrees.

Once cool enough to handle, cut 1/4 top off your potatoes. Scoop out the pulp, and place in your cheese/milk mixture bowl. Try not to tear the potato skin while you are scooping. You will not be using the skin from the 1/4 top, so discard it.

Once you have scooped all the pulp from the potato skins, mash and mix the potato with your cheese/milk mixture. It should form a creamy yet stiff consistency.

TIP: If you prefer a more whipped consistency, break out the electric mixer for 2-3 minutes. If you like the potato mash consistency, then use a regular masher or fork to combine. Up to you!

Using a spoon, stuff your skins with the potato mix. Be sure to fully fill the skins and get the mixture into the ends and sides.

Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and place in the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and potato is warmed through.

Prepared, and ready for the oven

If you have a BBQ dinner coming up this summer, these would be a great side dish. You can make them the day before (wait to sprinkle the cheese on top), leave in the fridge covered in saran wrap, then pop in the oven at your party. You may need to increase the baking time to 20-30 minutes, to ensure they warm through. The less time you spend in the kitchen being monopolized by food, the more time you have to enjoy the party.

Here are some other twice baked potato recipes that have a special twist to their recipe:
Guten appetit!

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