Saturday, October 22, 2011

Twice Baked Potatoes

For a nice dinner you like to dress up even the simplest dishes.  Making twice-baked potatoes is an easy way to do this.  It is not challenging nor does it take much extra time.  Additionally, you can make them well before guests arrive and give them their second baking, popping them into the oven about 20 minutes before your meal.

You've probably all made these before, so I won't go into too much detail on my own recipe.  But I will tell you that these will be much better than the frozen ones you get at the store.  They are simply more moist and flavorful because they are fresh.

As you can see here, I scrub then butter, salt and pepper the potatoes placing them in a 400F oven to bake until tender, about 50 minutes.  This will make the skins crisp and flavorful.  Not one came back from the table uneaten.

Carefully slice off the top while they are hot holding the potato in a gloved hand.  Use a teaspoon to gently scoop out most of the inside, but being careful to leave a layer of potato inside the skin to help with structural integrity.  If you scoop out too much of the potato the skin will tear or at least collapse.  You want to have a form that is stable for the stuffing.

Place the potato contents into the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool to room temperature.  For six potatoes, I add about 4 tablespoons of butter and mix in.  Then I add milk/cream/half & half, sour cream and mix until smooth.  Then I mix in one lightly beaten egg.  Finally, I add chopped green onions (saving the top part for garnish at serving), shredded cheese, Montreal Steak Seasoning (or just salt and pepper) and chopped crisp bacon bits.  For all of this you can add or subtract to your liking, adjusting the amounts and ingredients to suit your taste.

I then spoon the mixture carefully into the shells.  If you want to dress them up even more, run the last portion of the potato mixture through a pastry tube to fancy the tops.  Then sprinkle with some remaining cheese and cooked bacon and a dash of paprika and they are ready to refrigerate or go directly to the oven.  If you refrigerate them, cover with foil during storage.  Let them come to room temperature before the second baking, which should only take 20-30 minutes to reheat and slightly brown (baking uncovered in a 350F oven.)

I garnished them here with the tops of the green onions, and served them with peppered ham and sauteed sugar snap peas with garlic.  An easy dinner, but one that looks and tastes wonderful.

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