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Monday, August 12, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes

I may have mentioned this before, but a month or so ago I made twice baked potatoes for the first time in six years.  They came out so perfect that I almost forgot why I had ever stopped making them in the first place.  Then I saw Aaron's plate after dinner and realized why... He only eats the inside and throws out that wonderfully crispy, salty skin!  No matter though because I don't mind to eat his shell with a tiny bit of cheese melted into it for lunch tomorrow so I tossed it in a container and put it in the fridge.

Twice baked potatoes are wonderful because they combine the crunchy skin of a baked potato or a potato skin and load it with creamy mashed potatoes.  Plus, anything covered in melted cheese is always a good thing.  My favorite part is the skin, but it is important to note that the mashed potato filling is for some reason much fluffier than regular mashed potatoes.  Maybe it's the fact that they're baked instead of boiled or maybe it's the second baking that makes the butter extra melted or slightly cooks the sour cream.  I'm not sure what it is exactly, but it is divine!

I think the recipe that I used ages ago when I used to make twice baked potatoes regularly was loaded with butter, sour cream, bacon crumbles, and shredded cheese.  This recipe is much lighter, only using a tiny bit of butter, some light (or fat free) sour cream, and a (generous) sprinkling of cheese on top.  The great thing about this recipe is that it turns out a bit different every time.  I used to add extra cheese and bacon because I wasn't counting calories.  I'm still not counting but I am more conscious of it so I've dialed it back a bit and though the taste is not quite the same it is certainly just as enjoyable.

This recipe is a guideline.  You do not have to follow it exactly, and in fact you probably shouldn't.  My potatoes are probably smaller than the ones you will be using and the ingredients can vary depending on your personal preference.  My advice with this recipe is to be sure to taste your filling before loading the potato skins and add anything you think it needs.

This recipe will yield 8 twice baked potatoes.  Aaron and I can eat two each, but we are gigantic pigs when it comes to potatoes.  I would say this recipe probably feeds 4-6 people.

Twice Baked Potatoes

4 medium sized russet or Idaho potatoes
olive oil
sea salt
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sour cream
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz cheese, shredded (I used Colby tonight because that's what I had on hand, but these are spectacular with some extra sharp white cheddar and they're also quite good with Monterrey jack or some Colby jack cheese)

optional ingredients:
onion powder
parsley or paprika for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Lay out 4 pieces of aluminum foil, each large enough to wrap a potato.  Wash the potatoes and dry them.

Place one potato on each piece of aluminum foil.

Drizzle about 1/2 tsp of olive oil on each potato, enough to coat the whole potato and then rub the oil around to coat the whole surface of the skin.  Now sprinkle a few pinches of sea salt on each potato and make sure you get a bit on each side (top and bottom, I know potatoes are round and don't have sides).

Roll the potatoes up in the foil and bake them for an hour at 500 degrees.  After an hour the potatoes should be cooked through.

Unwrap the potatoes and slice them in half with a very sharp knife.  Be careful not to rip the skin as it will be soft from being wrapped in foil.

Scoop the insides of the potato out with a spoon and put it in a small mixing bowl.  Leave about 1/8-1/4 inch of the potato in the skin to keep it sturdy and set the skins aside on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Add the butter, sour cream, and garlic to the mashed potatoes and mix well with a fork, mashing as necessary to avoid large lumps.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Taste again.  (Seriously... be sure to taste it because bland potato is pretty disgusting.)  Now you could also add a little crumbled bacon (the precooked bacon pieces that they sell in the salad dressing section at the grocery store are great for this if you don't feel like cooking bacon), a sprinkle of onion powder, some chives, or some of the shredded cheese.  Mix well and taste again.

Once you have the filling properly seasoned fill each potato skin shell evenly with the mashed potato mixture.

Sprinkle cheese over the top and bake another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is beginning to brown.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and sprinkle with a tiny bit of parsley or paprika as a garnish.

These potatoes are great with chicken and pork chops, but they are absolutely amazing alongside a thick juicy filet.  (Well, any steak really, but I happen to like filet.)

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