So nice when baked twice Potatoes

Hi Everyone,  There are many ways to cook potatoes – boiled, stewed, curried, sautéed, fried, steamed, grilled, microwaved, baked and roasted. They can be mashed, smashed and whipped. And depending on how you cut them, you can make fries, wedges or matchstick fries. Potatoes can be used to make bread, pancakes and pies too. What can’t we do with a potato?

I enjoy potatoes in so many ways that I cannot pick a favourite, but one way in which I particularly enjoy potatoes is when they are baked twice! I think that the main reason I like twice-baked potatoes, sometimes called jacket potatoes (they are cooked and served right in their skins/jackets), is because the filling and flavour combinations are endless. Honestly, I think it is very difficult to mess up the taste of a twice-baked potato. A filling made simply of the baked potato flesh, butter, a splash of milk or cream, salt, pepper and cheese is enough to make you slap your thigh… hard. You can taste it right? Now imagine adding meat, veggies, peas, beans and herbs in various combinations. How about some cooked fish, smoked herring, salt fish, pickled mackerel? What about roasted garlic, creamy Roquefort cheese, salty Havarti, smoked Gouda or sharp cheddar cheese? Mayonnaise, avocado, mustard, sour cream, crème fraîche, chutneys – sweet and savoury all make for excellent binders and flavour aids. I need to take a moment to sigh here. I am a real sucker for twice-baked potatoes.

There is a very popular sports bar here in Barbados that I would frequent with friends. No, not for the beers or cocktails but for the twice baked, jacket potatoes! Yeah the burgers are good too but the jacket potatoes, that’s the moneymaker right there. I’d recommend the bar to friends with strict instructions to order the jacket potato. My friend Sue and I were such regulars there that after a while, the familiar wait staff would bring the menus only because it was part of their duty to do so. They (the staff) knew that we knew, before we got there, what our orders were going to be.

Sometimes the wait-staff didn’t even put down the menus, as we’d rattle off our orders immediately after the greeting. Sue, I know that you are reading this… I think we should get a share of the profits from that bar for our patronage and countless recommendations. Don’t you agree?

Big Idaho potatoes would arrive hot, cheese melted, fragrant with green onions. The first cut, like butter against the knife. The first bite sublime. I need to take another moment here.

In preparation for this column, I had a friend, who had dropped by unexpectedly, taste-test my twice-baked potatoes.  I’d made two batches. One set was regular – potatoes, milk, butter, cheese, carrots, scallions (green onions). The other, I like to call my “dirty” twice-baked potatoes – made with chopped chicken livers, onions, butter, milk, and potatoes, topped with cheese. I gave Ayanna the one with the regular filling to try first because I wasn’t sure if she ate chicken livers. “Oh my gosh Aunty Cynthia, this is so delicious. I’ve never had potatoes this way before.” Encouraged by her response I asked her about the chicken livers, she said she’d never eaten them before. I asked her if she’d like to try the other version of the twice-baked potatoes. I told her to take just a little bite and if she didn’t like it, to stop. I had to say the latter because this young lady is polite to a fault.

Ayanna took her first bite of my “dirty” twice-baked potato and declared: “I prefer this one – it is meaty!” She hastened to add: “The other one is really good too but this one with the meat. I like this one a lot.” I told you she is polite.

I shared the baked potatoes with two other friends and a short while after I received a telephone call, “I’m too old to be ashamed so I am going to come right out and ask, ‘do you have any more of those baked potatoes?’ ”

I think my job is done here. You don’t need any more convincing to try making twice-baked potatoes. Get creative with your fillings and use mine as a mere guide. The holidays are coming and these would make a great addition to your table. Ham and garlic pork would be ideal additions to your fillings.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Yield: 10

Regular Baked Potato  (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

INGREDIENTS
Version 1

5 large russet or Idaho potatoes
Oil
Salt
3 – 4 tablespoons butter
½ cup whole milk
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese for filling and topping
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the middle.

2.  Scrub potatoes under running water to remove dirt. Pat dry. Drizzle oil and rub all over potatoes, sprinkle with salt. Take a fork and prick all over the potatoes to prevent them from exploding while cooking.

3.  Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet with a wire/cooling rack inserted

or place directly on the oven rack. Cook for 1-¼ hours to 1-½ hours depending on the size of the potatoes. To  test for done-ness, squeeze the potatoes – they should give a little.

4.  Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half horizontally (you can cut it in half vertically if you like). Take a spoon and scoop out the flesh of the potatoes into a bowl; don’t go right down to the skin, leave a thin layer of potato. Repeat until all the potatoes have been scooped out.

5. Add the butter, milk, 2 cups grated cheese, green onions along with salt and pepper to taste and mash until everything is mixed together. If you like your filling a little chunky, don’t mash until smooth.

6.  Fill the potato jackets with the filling, smooth the top if you like. W

hen all the jackets are filled, sprinkle remaining cheese on top of potatoes.

7.  Transfer potatoes back to the baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted. OR turn on your broiler and cook the potatoes until the cheese is melted – about 10 to 15 minutes depending on your broiler.

8.  Serve hot as is, as a side dish or with a salad.

Version 2 (“Dirty” Twice-baked Potatoes)

INGREDIENTS
5 large russet or Idaho potatoes

Twice Baked Potato (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Oil

Salt
1 lb chicken livers, cleaned and pat dry
1 cup finely chopped onions

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
Minced hot pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 – 4 tablespoons butter
½ cup whole milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese for filling and topping
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the middle.
2.  Scrub potatoes under running water to remove dirt. Pat dry. Drizzle oil and rub all over potatoes, sprinkle with salt. Take a fork and prick all over the potatoes to prevent it from exploding while cooking.

3.  Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet with a wire/cooling rack inserted or place directly on the oven rack. Cook for 1-¼ hours to 1-½ hours depending on the size of the potatoes. To test for done-ness, squeeze the potatoes – they should give a little or be soft to the touch.

4.  While the potatoes are baking, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a frying pan until hot, add onions, thyme, pepper and garlic along with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix and reduce heat to low and let cook gently until the onions are softened.

5.  Raise heat to high and add chicken livers; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until liver is cooked, do not overcook if not the livers will become rubbery.

6.  Remove pan with cooked liver and let cool completely. When cool, take out livers and chop finely. Return the chopped liver to the pan with the onion mixture remaining from the cooking.

7.  Remove the potatoes from the oven when they are done cooking and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half horizontally (you can cut it in half vertically if you like). Take a spoon and scoop out the flesh of the potatoes into a bowl; don’t go right down to the skin, leave a thin layer of potato. Repeat until all the potatoes have been scooped out.

8.  Add the butter, milk, 1 cup grated cheese, green onions, along with salt and pepper to taste and mash until everything is mixed together. Mix in the cooked chopped liver and its seasonings.

9.  Fill the potato jackets with the filling, smooth the top if you like. When all the jackets are filled, sprinkle remaining cheese on top of potatoes.

10.  Transfer potatoes back to the baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted. OR turn on your broiler and cook the potatoes until the cheese is melted – about 10 to 15 minutes depending on your broiler.

11.  Serve hot as is, as a side dish or with a salad.

TIP: Always leave some of the “meat” filling to top the potatoes along with the cheese. For example, I reserved some of the chopped livers to top the stuffed potatoes along with the cheese before baking it again. Make for a hearty topping.

Now go experiment with various fillings for your twice-baked potatoes. This weekend, I am making some with smoked herring in the mix. Actually, I have some smoked fish from Guyana so I think I’ll use that instead.
Cynthia
Cynthia@tasteslikehome.org

www.tasteslikehome.org



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