A Two- Fer and Mostly Do-Ahead Recipe
Organic potatoes are the only way to go, in my opinion.
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.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
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:
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, making sure to go up and over the four edges.
Put bacon strips on foil-covered baking sheet and slide onto middle rack in your preheated oven. Set timer for 15 minutes.
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.
Kimi, my girlfriend Carole's ragdoll kitty.
What? You don’t have cats? Too bad!
After the bacon cools, pop it into a baggie. Squeeze out the air and crunch the bacon around with your fingers until you get the desired size bacon bits. Set aside. If you cook the whole pound you’ll have some bacon left over; use it in a salad during the week! Oh yeah!
Use the soiled paper towels from the bacon plate to absorb the grease left on the foil-covered baking sheet; carefully gather and crumple the foil into a ball and toss into the garbage. No need to wash the baking sheet!
To bake the potatoes:
While the bacon is baking, scrub/rinse the potatoes well under cold water, making sure to remove every little beady eye and dirt clump.
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.)
Neat rows make for happy potatoes. Well, not really, but who cares.
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.
Cut each potato lengthwise and, using a teaspoon, scoop out most of the cooked potato into a separate bowl, leave a decent amount (1/4 to ½ inch) around the sides and bottom of each potato skin so you have a hearty potato skin to eat later.
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:
Add 4 TB of room temperature butter to the potatoes in the mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer (or potato masher if you’re feeling particularly energetic), whip on low speed to combine.
Add ½-cup fat-free half-n-half and whip on medium speed until potatoes are smooth and creamy. Taste them; correct for salt and pepper.
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:
Rub skin sides of the potato shells with canola oil and put them in two neat rows on a foil-lined baking sheet. (If you're using ones you froze previously, make sure you thaw them before rubbing with the canola oil.)
Divide the 8-ounce package of pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese among the shells and top with bacon bits. Be generous with the bacon.
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.
The finished product. I like them with sour cream on top.
*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.