Serves 4 to 6
For just giving thanks (thanks for potatoes!), this is almost a culinary version of "You can never go home again," or rather, in this case—you can.
Let me explain: Some things never taste as good when you grow up as they did when you were a child. That's why this dish of baked potatoes-the flesh hollowed out and mashed with butter, crème fraîche, and green onions, then topped with melty cheese-is such a treat. It's the dish my Auntie Stellie, of cheese and dill pickle sandwich fame, always made for Thanksgiving at her house, the celebrations in which the number of guests were never counted, merely welcomed. She also made fabulous Jell-O molds.
Next to the stuffing, to which I was also devoted, the hot stuffed potatoes were the best part of the meal. They might be quintessentially American Thanksgiving in style, but they certainly have international appeal. Recently, I was describing these potatoes to a friend, cookbook author Maria Villegas from Colombia, where potatoes are indigenous and eaten at nearly every meal. When I came to the part about the cream and the onions and the cheese, she cried out: "We make these in Bogota!" And while visiting Athens, Greece, what's that I see? Twice-baked potatoes, with spinach and feta cheese (see variation below).
This version serves 4 to 6, but you can multiply it at will. Twice-baked potatoes for 50 are just as good as for 2. Feel free to adjust amounts, since no one potato is the same size as the next; even if it weighs the same, it may need more or less butter and crème fraîche. Three things: (1) do not be tempted to use low-fat substitutes or—alors!—margarine; (2) do not be tempted to use a food processor to mash and mix the potatoes-you'll get instant glue and that glue will absorb the sour cream and onion; and (3) err on the side of generosity with the butter, crème fraîche, green onions, and, heck, the cheese, too. Any excess cheese melts off and into the pan and forms crispy little cheese cracker-like things of deliciousness. Nibble them yourself or peel them out of the pan and set them next to the potatoes as a yummy lagniappe.
1. Bake the potatoes (see page 111).
2. When cool enough to handle, use a teaspoon to scoop out their insides, leaving a perimeter of potato flesh next to the skin all the way around.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Coarsely mash all the potato flesh in a bowl, then add the butter, crème fraîche, and green onions and mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon the mixture evenly into the potatoes, then arrange in a single layer in a baking pan and sprinkle with the cheese. Top with a pinch of paprika on each, then bake for about 10 minutes, or long enough to melt and sizzle the cheese on top of the potatoes and warm the potatoes all the way through.
Prepare as directed, only reduce the crème fraîche to 3 tablespoons (or use cottage cheese), and add about 1 cup cooked spinach, squeeze dried and chopped, several tablespoons chopped fresh dill, and about 1/2 cup or more feta cheese. Keep the green onions; they are just so good in twice-baked potatoes. Fill the hollowed-out potato skins, then top with the cheese as directed, using a Greek kasseri, kashkeval, or kefalotyri, or Monterey Jack or Sonoma Jack, instead of Cheddar. Bake the stuffed potatoes as directed.
Colombian chef and food writer Maria Villegas—who truly is too beautiful and calm to be a mere mortal, let alone a chef who trained at the chicest restaurants of Europe and the United States—prepares these potatoes using cream cheese instead of sour cream, and doesn't usually top it with a melted cheese but rather makes the potato filling smooth, so it bakes to a smooth crust on top. Sometimes Maria tops each little twicebaked potato with a big twirl of supple, saline-smoked salmon and a scattering of chives or capers.
Add sautéed sliced wild mushrooms, or a mixture of domestic ordinary mushrooms and refrigerated dried porcini, to the mashed potato mix, and Jack or kashkeval instead of Cheddar.
Visit All About Potatoes featuring dozens of potato recipes
65 Downright Delicious Recipes
by Betty Marlena Spieler
Photographs by Sheri Giblin
Chronicle Books 2007
$18.95; Paperback; 180 pp; 24 color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created December 2007
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