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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Twice Baked Potatoes

On the half shell:

I found this recipe hiding in the archives of a copy of "America's Cook Book" from 1974. I enjoy browsing through the recipes and giggling to myself at the black and white photographs of wedges of Roquefort cheese and jelly rolls filled with cream and fruit. There is something precious about a sponge cake or, dare I say it, a Jello mold that I can't quite explain. I mean, what is so special about carrots, sliced beets and orange Jello covered in a sour cream sauce? Inexplicably, I have a hidden love of basic homey things that were once chic and worthy of Bridge nosh or the Jones' coming over for supper. I accept it willingly. Have you ever seen a Jello mold? They are so cute and so equally alien and gelatinous you can't not love them! Conveniently, these "vintage" recipes often circulate around a simple list of basic pantry ready ingredients without all the frills and thrills of modern dishes. Which is perfect because sometimes all we want is a quick and easy meal without the thrills and extra price tags.

Most recipes I came across, like "Italian Pickled Beef Wedges" or "Hot Tuna Sauce", were a little too far out for me. But, there were many more that were simple wholesome meals like "Baked Potatoes on the Half Shell". When my parents and I decided to have burgers on the grill tonight in a vain attempt to keep the house cool in spite of the heat my idea of making oven fries was kindly shot down. Instead I settled down and found these twice baked potatoes, humorously called "on the half shell" instead of twice baked. Cooking them in the microwave first meant the oven could stay off and the taters were done in about 4 minutes. A little pepper jack cheese spiced up the original recipe which was vague and general. Topped with a spoonful of sour cream the potatoes were scrumptious.

Adding some steamed broccoli and a few slices of crisped bacon would transform these potatoes into a light meal or a deluxe side dish that would be perfect with a steak, burger or grilled chicken.

Makes 4

2 potatoes, I prefer red skinned potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions
1/4 cup milk, warmed
1/3 cup pepper jack cheese (or cheddar if you prefer)
1 tablespoon sour cream, plus more to serve

1. Wash and dry the potatoes. Cut off any major blemishes or eyes. Do not peel.
2. Microwave the potatoes using the "potato" setting or 4-4 1/2 minutes until fork tender. Be sure to poke holes in the potato with a fork or a sharp knife before microwaving.
3. Let the potatoes cool before handling.
4. In a separate bowl add the onions, sour cream, butter, cheese (reserving 2 tablespoons), garlic salt and pepper.
5. When the potatoes have cooled slightly cut in half length wise. Gently spoon out most of the insides, leaving a layer of potato around the sides to hold the shape. Add the potato to the bowl with butter and seasonings.
6. Mix the potato and seasonings with a fork, adding the heated milk a little at a time until the potatoes are smooth but not runny. You may not need the whole 1/4 cup.
7. Preheat the broiler on your oven to low. Spoon the potato mixture back into the shells, filling evenly. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese and place under the broiler.
8. Broil 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are gently browned. Remove from the broiler and serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of green onions or chives.

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