A Two- Fer and Mostly Do-Ahead Recipe
Sometimes I don’t cook often enough and I find potatoes staring at me with little beady eyes when I open the potato drawer. Rather than meet their accusing little eyes I immediately grab them and make . . . potato skins and whipped potatoes. When the potatoes are staring at you and you have a little time, try this recipe.
Did I hear you say, “Brilliant!”
<foot shuffle, head hung modestly>
Yeah. I think so too.
Ingredients: 5 pounds of organic* russet potatoes, 4 tablespoons butter, 1/2c fat-free half-n-half, salt and pepper. Canola oil, 1 8-ounce package shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 pound reduced salt bacon. Sour cream (optional) for serving.
My sister Linda showed me an easy, splatter free way to make bacon years ago, when I was just learning to cook. She showed me how to bake it! It’s an easy cleanup and yields really straight bacon. Try it.
To make the bacon:
When the bacon is completely cooked and crispy (17 minutes in my oven), transfer the slices onto a paper-towel-covered plate to drain. Put another paper towel on top to help sop up any extra grease and keep your cats away from the yummy bacon.
What? You don’t have cats? Too bad!
To bake the potatoes:
Poke 4-5 holes in each potato. (If you don’t, the potato likely will explode in your oven, scaring the crap out of you and making a real mess.)
Place the scrubbed and poked potatoes in two neat rows in the preheated oven; place the larger potatoes to the rear of the oven and make sure each potato has breathing room around it so it bakes evenly. Set timer for 1 hour, less if the potatoes are on the smallish side.
When the potatoes are completely cooked (stick a fork in the largest one and if it goes in easily and comes out just as easy, they are done.), put them on a tea towel to cool for a couple minutes.
Set the scooped-out potato skins aside for now. At this point you can refrigerate the skins to use sometime during the week or you can freeze them to use at a much later date. Or, like me yesterday, you can make-em up right away.
To make the mashed potatoes:
At this point you can either put the whipped potatoes into a freezer worthy container to freeze/use at a later date or put them into an ovenproof baking dish in the frig to reheat/use within a few days. Your choice.
Note: Reheat (thawed) potatoes in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes, until they are puffy and golden brown on top.
To make the potato skins:
Slide the foil-covered baking sheet into a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes.
When your timer buzzes check the skins and ask yourself these questions: Is the cheese melted? Do I see little bubbles formed around the top edges of the skins? If you can answer yes and yes, remove skins from oven and let cool for a few minutes if you can stand it (otherwise, you’ll burn the top of your mouth.). Serve (if desired) with sour cream.
*Organic potatoes smell like real potatoes, earthy and dirty, but even more important, they taste like real potatoes. In my opinion, if they aren’t organic they aren’t worth my time and talent to cook with. Once you’ve tried organic potatoes you won’t go back.