Twice Baked Potatoes

This post is the very last one using pictures from my old point-and-shoot camera. To be honest, I’m pretty nervous.Even though it’s irrational, part of me expects to be able to take amazingly better photos within seconds of pulling the new DSLR out of its box. That part of me has been doing a lot of wailing and scolding at the pictures I’ve taken since. I’m annoyed at myself for not picking up the skill faster, and in a more general sense, for not being the creative and artistic type I always thought I wanted to be. I’m going to have to be patient. To practice. To not get frustrated.

This is going to be really difficult for me. I have no patience. If I did, I would actually decorate desserts and cook things that required me to be in the kitchen for more than half an hour. I love cooking, but there’s a point after which I want to eat. And spending more time on the camera, on framing shots, on lighting. . . well, that’s going to be pushing dinner back that little bit more. So for the last of the completely quick-and-easy, here’s an easy-as-can-be side dish. Fill it with black bean chili and you have a filling, comforting meal. I give you twice baked potatoes.

There is only one real trick to twice baked potatoes: stuff as many different kinds of dairy in there as you possibly can. Butter, milk (or cream) and at least one kind of cheese are a must, but you can’t go wrong tossing in a chunk of cream cheese or a spoonful of ricotta, topping them with sour cream, or really anything else you can think of.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)

2 baked potatoes

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided

4 T butter

about 1/4 cup of milk, as needed

salt and mustard powder to taste

sour cream to serve

Directions

Texans have some funny ideas about baking potatoes. They wrap them in foil before baking, which holds in most of the moisture, but has the undesirable side effect of leaving the skins soggy and wrinkled. No thank you. I believe there is only one way to bake a potato. Heat the oven to 400°F. Scrub and dry the potatoes. Rub the skins generously with olive oil. Sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt. Put them on a cookie sheet and make a clean slice down the middle to let steam escape (if you’re my dad, you’ll cut amazing cartoon faces into the potatoes that your kids will be missing when they’re in their twenties). Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stabbing them with a fork to see if they’re done. They’re done when the fork feels like it’s stabbing room-temperature butter.

So you have baked potatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving a thin layer to hold the potato skins together.

You have three options with the skins. [1] set them aside and leave them alone, [2] spread some butter on the insides and put them back in the oven at 400°F while you make the filling (my usual choice), or [3] deep fry them until crispy (3-4 minutes). I did this once and it was unbelievably good, but a little more work than warranted.

Run the flesh through a ricer or mash it with a fork.

Cut in the butter, add about 2 ounces of the cheese, and pour on a little milk.  Don’t add all the milk at once. No two potatoes have the same moisture level, and adding too much liquid will net you potato soup.

Mix everything together, taste it, add salt and mustard powder and more milk if needed.

Scoop the mashed potato mixture back into the skins and top with the remaining cheese.

Pop the potatoes back into the 400F oven for 5-10 minutes to heat the filling fully through and melt down the cheese topping.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and steamed fresh vegetables. We didn’t start baking our potatoes until we were already hungry, so we ate broccoli and carrots before dinner. What can I say, thinking ahead isn’t always my strong suit.

I love the combination of textures. Crisp, buttery skin, fluffy mashed potatoes, gooey cheese, and chill, ethereal sour cream all in one bite. This is simplicity and comfort food at their best.

 

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