TWICE BAKED POTATOES
If there’s anything better than the perfect baked potato, it would have to be a twice baked potato. I’m sure everybody’s Mom, Grandma or next-door neighbor has a recipe for double-stuffed potatoes; afterall, if you can bake a potato and make mashed potatoes, you’re pretty much halfway there. See, it’s not so much about how you make them, as it is about what’s inside.
Having eaten delicious versions that included blue cheese, fresh herbs, roasted garlic and even wasabi, it wasn’t until a recent trip to Cowgirl Creamery that I became inspired to make a slightly more gourmet version of a recipe I saw on PBS’s, Cook’s Country.
It was a taste of Cowgirl’s housemade, light-as-air, herbed fromage blanc that set me off. While the Cook’s Country’s version saw the addition of Boursin cheese to their super-stuffed baked potatoes, the bright tasting, herb-packed fromage blanc seemed like it might be able to produce a more sophisticated version of the dish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of both Boursin and Rondelé cheese, but after eating it by the tub full on crackers as a kid, the lighter texture and slightly tart flavor of herbed fromage blanc seemed to taste a bit more grown up.
Needless to say, the end result was delicious. Topped with fresh chopped chives and a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits, the flavor was ironically reminiscent of savory sour cream and onion potato chips. So much for gourmet, I suppose. But what do you think? Is a homemade dish that recalls the flavor of your favorite packaged snack or fast food meal a good or bad sign? I’m leaning towards the former!
TWICE BAKED POTATOES
Adapted from Cook’s Country’s, Super-Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Baking an extra potato will ensure that each finished spud is stuffed to max capacity. Because potatoes vary in size, you might need more or less half-and-half to reach your desired filling texture. As always, taste the potato-cheese mixture before filling the shells and adjust the seasonings to your own preference. If you’re strapped for time, you can always microwave the potatoes on a paper towel for 20-25 minutes, turning half way through.
- 6 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons melted for brushing
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 6 ounces herbed fromage blanc or Boursin/Rondelé cheese
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pieces smoked bacon, or more to fold in with cheese mixture as desired, cooked until crisp and coarsely chopped
- Fresh, chopped chives for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Prick potatoes all over with with a fork, place directly on the rack of the oven and roast for 50-60 minutes or until tender and cooked through.
- Carefully slice off the top quarter of each potato and allow to cool slightly for about five minutes. Scoop out the flesh of each potato into a large bowl being careful to leave behind a 1/4 inch layer of potato on the inside to form a shell. Brush each shell inside and out with the melted butter and sprinkle the insides with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Raise the heat of the oven to 475°. Place the buttered potato shells on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until they begin to crisp.
- While the potato shells are baking in the oven mix the half-and-half with 1/2 of the cheese. Cook the remaining butter and garlic in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until garlic is lightly golden and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes. Add the half-and-half/cheese mixture to the garlic butter and mix thoroughly. Heat until just warm.
- Press the reserved potato flesh through a ricer or food mill and gently fold in the warm cheese/butter mixture, remaining salt and pepper until well combined.
- Remove the potato shells from the oven and fill them with the potato-cheese mixture. Carefully spread on the remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes, or until warmed through and golden brown.
- Sprinkle with chives and bacon bits and serve immediately.