Twice Baked Potatoes

021116-Recipe

After warming your insides with a hot chocolate last week, I thought it would be appropriate to keep the home-style comfort theme going for another week. I thought about meatloaf or macaroni and cheese (visit TheTahoeWeekly.com for the recipes), but I have done those in the past so since I just had a lengthy conversation about potatoes with my sister back East, I’m going to go with the always delicious, twice baked potatoes.

“These can be made a day or two before hand saving lots of time if they happen to be for a party.”

So what’s so great about twice baked potatoes? Well, how about cheese, cream, butter, sour cream and bacon all in one bite. I mean, if that doesn’t sound good, then you might want to wait until next week’s article on plain unseasoned boiled potatoes. Just kidding; those are some of the normal ingredients you can find in twice baked potatoes, with all the ingredients mashed up together, but like in most things, you can pick and chose what ingredients you want to include for yourself.

The fact is, I personally will normally include butter, cream (only if not using sour cream) and a small amount of cheese on top. I’ll only add a tiny amount of sour cream about half the time I make these depending on my mood, and although I do like bacon when someone else makes them, I save the bacon for when I make potato skins.

Depending on your thoughts of how you want the twice baked potatoes to look, you can have skins sooner than you were probably thinking. That’s because when you scoop out the potato from the skin after baking, the amount of mashed potatoes left to refill the skins can look pretty skimpy. I have seen many restaurants make up the difference by adding potato pearls, which are the dehydrated potato flakes, to the mashed bakers, but I just can’t seem to make myself go down that road. Maybe that’s because growing up, that’s what my family had to except on holidays.

I’ll do one of two things to be sure they look full and appetizing. On most occasions, I will simply bake off a few extra bakers figuring one extra potato for each three halves. I’ll freeze the extra skins to use as an appetizer at a later date. If I really want to go all out, though, I’ll add some red potatoes to make up the difference because reds are my favorites and I like the flavor and texture they add. Their skins can also be used for an appetizer.

Two last things I want to mention about how awesome these potatoes are. First, if you leave out the bacon and add the cheese on top, you can use a pastry bag with a wide tip to pipe the potatoes back into the skins. This is both faster than spooning and looks better. Secondly, these can be made a day or two before hand saving lots of time if they happen to be for a party.

Twice Baked Potatoes For 6 people

5 baker potatoes
3T butter + 2T melted
3T cream or sour cream
½ T fresh grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Scallions or chives sliced thin for garnish
3 oz. greyer or cheddar cheese slices cut into 18 wedges

Rub the potatoes with a little oil, season with salt and pepper and wrap in foil. Bake these right on the rack at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 60 minutes or until soft all the through. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop most of the filling into a bowl, leaving enough potato so the skins keep their shape. Freeze the four extra skins for later.

Add the butter and cream or sour cream and whisk smooth, but not over whisked. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Pipe or spoon the filling into the skins. Push three wedges of cheese spaced evenly, into the potatoes down the center of each half. Drizzle with a little melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese melted. Garnish with thin sliced chives or scallions.

 

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Chef Smitty

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.