Sunday, June 2, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes

It is a tradition of my extended Tennessee family to celebrate family birthdays together. For years we were eight adults and five children gathering at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner or Sunday lunch. The dining room table could not accommodate all of the adults, and we never knew which adult would be asked to sit at the children’s table in the kitchen.  Over the years, we experienced some changes.  The children grew up, we lost Grandpa four years ago and Grandma grew frail. With our growing number of family members now including spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, each parent sibling would host the ever growing family event in their own home.  We recently hosted over 20 people for Mother’s Day lunch at our home when I noticed that I had made Twice Baked Potatoes each of the last three times we  hosted.
I chose this side item because I can make it the night before and heat it in the oven before my guests arrive.  With summer approaching, I thought I would share this simple recipe that is a welcomed addition to any dinner or cookout.  We lost the matriarch of my extended Tennessee family just a few short days following Mother’s Day.  She will be  missed.

§  4 large russet potatoes
§  4 - 8 tablespoons butter
§  1/2 cup sour cream
§  4 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
§  1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
§  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional Toppings:
§  Bacon
§  Chopped tomatoes
§  Salsa

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the potatoes with a soft brush or clean scouring sponge.  Do not wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil as you typically would to make baked potatoes as it will keep the skins soft.  We want the skin to be firm to provide a vessel strong enough to hold the filling securely.
Set the potatoes on a baking sheet, place in the center of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. For even and thorough baking, pierce each potato several times with a fork and continue to bake until tender, about 30 minutes longer. Remove potatoes from the oven, and turn the heat down to 375 degrees.
While the potatoes are still warm, cut in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, carefully scoop out most of the potato into a bowl. Take care to leave enough potato in the skin so the shells hold together.
Mash the potatoes lightly with fork.  Add butter and sour cream.  Stir in scallions, shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper.  If you like, you can add bacon to the potato mixture.  I find that when I add bacon to the mixture, all I taste is the bacon so I prefer to sprinkle with chopped bacon before serving.

Season the empty potato shells with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a teaspoon of grated cheese.  Refill with the potato mixture mounding it slightly.
You may not have enough filling to refill all of the potatoes, but if you mound the mixture, most people will only eat a single half.  I top my potatoes with cheese after they come out of the oven.  If you top the potatoes with cheese before returning them to the oven, the cheese will harden and form a crust.  I prefer my cheese soft and gooey.

If you are not planning to eat the potatoes immediately, cover with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator until ready to reheat.  When ready to serve, set the potatoes back onto a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese while still hot.  You may want to keep them in the over for a minute or two until the cheese is thoroughly melted.  If you like, top the warm potatoes with chopped tomatoes and bacon.  Serve immediately.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Twice Baked Potatoes. Enjoy!

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