Time is right to bring back twice baked potatoes


Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

One of my first jobs as chef was at a popular place in downtown Detroit called The Caucus Club -- sadly, now closed. It drew many of Detroit's movers and shakers and it was where Barbra Streisand got her first paying gig and first big break. One of the Caucus Club's famous dishes was Baked Potato Skins. I have no idea if Barbra ever ate them.

There was no oven in the restaurant's tiny kitchen and only a couple of burners and a big broiler, where most of the food was cooked. The potatoes were baked in the top part of the broiler early in the day. While they were still warm, even hot, they were halved and the pulp was scooped out leaving a potato shell. We cut the shells in half, making four quarters, which we brushed with butter and broiled to order.

Diners could choose toppings including sour cream and chives, and we served them as an appetizer or a side dish. Some of the potato pulp went into our excellent corned beef hash. Every night they sold out. Today, when I see potato skins on menus, they seem to be a junky, fat-loaded appetizer, not as elegant as the ones we made.

To me, however, a baked potato is so much more than its skin. It's also the fluffy insides. Scoop out the insides and mash them with good things such as cooked spinach, Italian tuna, shredded cheese, bacon, chopped scallions and sour cream. Spoon it all back into the shells and bake them some more. With soup or a salad, that's dinner. Or they're a side to roasted chicken thighs or a salmon fillet.

I don't see them much anymore. I want to bring twice-baked potatoes back. What could be more comforting?

In Pittsburgh native Diane Morgan's gorgeous new book "Roots: The Definitive Compendium With More than 225 Recipes" she offers a delicious riff on the theme. Her twice-baked potatoes were inspired by the ones her mother made while she was growing up in Squirrel Hill.

Her new book takes a global approach to roots -- the vegetables, not her Pittsburgh roots. In the potato chapter, along with Twice-Baked Gruyere Potatoes with Lots of Green Onions, you'll find Colcannon, Grandma Rose's Latkes, Istrian Potatoes, Gerda's Austrian Potato Salad, Roasted New Potatoes with Romesco Sauce and Potato Chaat with Cilantro-Mint Chutney, styled after a popular South Indian street food.

We chatted about twice-baked potatoes and their versatility. "As kids," she said, "we loved them because they were popped under the broiler and had crusty cheese on top. They were served with chicken or a roast, or as the star of the plate."

These days, she might mash the hot potato with cheese and salsa, stuff that back into the skins and bake them, and then put a poached egg on top: "Breakfast for dinner." Or mix the potato with the rich blue cheese sauce she has in her book, where it's gracing some fingerlings. "That would totally work in a 'put-and-take,'" she said, using her family's pet name for twice-baked potatoes. "Or you could incorporate some chopped cooked spinach or kale."

But first you have to start with the right potato. After baking it should have a floury, fluffy, dry texture. A russet potato is the one to choose; they're sometimes called Idaho potatoes, Idaho russets or baking potatoes, and they are long and a little plump with rough brown skins. While they're often sold in plastic bags, Ms. Morgan likes to choose each potato separately and prefers organic potatoes when possible. Remember, you want to eat the skin. Organic or not, scrub them well before cooking.

For baking, it's key to choose potatoes that are roughly the same size, so they cook through in the same time. Also, Ms. Morgan advises, avoid ones with a green tinge under the skin, which means they've been exposed to light, as well as potatoes that are sprouting; they've been stored for too long.

She likes to store potatoes in a dark place in a paper sack. Never the refrigerator. Just before popping them into the oven, scrub them with a brush, prick them with a fork so steam can escape and they don't explode in the oven, and rub the skins lightly with oil. It crisps them lightly and keeps the skins smoother.



Twice-Baked Gruyere Potatoes with Lots of Green Onions

PG tested


This super-delicious stuffed potato comes from Pittsburgh native Diane Morgan's new cookbook, "Roots." She adds a crisp bread-crumb topping and the crunchy surprise of almonds in the potato filling.

She writes: "My family called these 'put-and-take potatoes' when I was growing up. I have no idea where that name came from. Yiddish? Pittsburghese? Although my mothers' version of twice-baked potatoes was much simpler than this one, I still remember how special they were when we made them. Baked potato skins with the flesh scooped out, whipped with butter and sour cream, and then mounded back into the potato skins and baked again is homey goodness."

  • 4 large russet potatoes, about 12 ounces each, scrubbed and pricked with fork in several places

  • Canola or other neutral oil for rubbing skins

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 6 green onions, including tops, thinly sliced

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese

  • 3/4 cup sour cream

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs

  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub potatoes with oil; place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until skins are crisp and potatoes tender, about 1 hour. Set aside about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in medium skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add garlic, green onions and rosemary. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. With teaspoon, scoop out pulp into bowl, making a thin but sturdy potato shell. Arrange shells in metal baking pan with sides.

With potato masher or food mill, mash potato. With rubber spatula, fold in onion mixture and Gruyere. Stir in sour cream, then yogurt. Add enough milk to create a fluffy mixture that will mound in shells. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon into shells, mounding mixture. In small bowl, stir together bread crumbs and Parmesan; spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons over each potato. (Potatoes can be prepared ahead and kept at room temperature for 2 hours.)

Bake until heated through and nicely browned on top, about 20 minutes. Broil to brown crumb mixture, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

-- Adapted from "Roots: The Definitive Compendium With More Than 225 Recipes" by Diane Morgan (Chronicle, 2012, $40)



Twice-Baked Chipotle Potatoes

PG tested


This was the recipe that made me realize I had to write this article. During cold weather, when craving something really soothing and warm, I often make twice-baked potatoes for dinner, adding cheese and sour cream, plus whatever bits and pieces need using up. This recipe hits the category out of the potato field. Wow is it good. By the way, canned chiles in adobo go a long way, so I keep them in the freezer, breaking off just what I need and thawing that.

  • 4 8-ounce russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with fork in several places

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) cup shredded cheddar cheese

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped canned chipotle with some adobo sauce

  • 2 scallions, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in upper third. Place potatoes on baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Let stand about 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Cut a piece off tops of potatoes. With teaspoon, scoop pulp from tops and inside potatoes into medium bowl, leaving about a 1/4-inch potato shell. Mash potato in bowl with sour cream, cheddar, chipotle, scallions, oregano, salt and pepper. Fill shells with potato mixture, mounding it.

Place filled potatoes in baking dish with sides. Bake until stuffing is hot and browned in places, about 20 minutes. Serve.

Makes 4 servings.

-- Adapted from "The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food" by Ian Knauer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, $30)



Twice-Baked Potatoes with Caramelized Red Onion, Cheddar and Bacon

PG tested


Potato comfort food all baked in a skin.

  • 4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with fork in several places

  • Canola or other neutral oil for rubbing skins

  • 8 thick bacon slices, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

  • 1 cup chopped red onion

  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I use Breakstone reduced-fat sour cream)

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly rub potatoes with oil and place on oven rack. Bake about 1 hour, until soft when squeezed. Remove from oven and let stand about 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until almost crisp, about 10 minutes. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon drippings. Stir in red onion; cook and stir 2 minutes until tender. Add balsamic and let bubble 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. With teaspoon, scoop out pulp into medium bowl, leaving a thin but sturdy potato shell. Mash potato in bowl with potato masher until fairly smooth. Add sour cream and mash until fluffy.

Add bacon mixture and 1 cup cheddar; beat with wooden spoon until well blended. Taste, adding salt if you like and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Spoon into potato shells, mounding mixture. Place in baking pan with sides. Sprinkle tops with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until heated and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

-- Miriam Rubin



Greek-Stuffed Potatoes with Garlicky Spinach and Feta

PG tested


  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with fork in several places

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little for rubbing potato skins

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano

  • 6-ounce bag baby spinach, coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

  • 1 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese, divided

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly rub potatoes with oil and place on oven rack. Bake about 1 hour, until soft when squeezed. Remove from oven and let stand about 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, stir oil and garlic in large, heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in thyme or oregano. Add 1/3 of spinach and 1 tablespoon water. As it cooks down, add remaining spinach, in batches; cook, stirring often, until tender and wilted.

Cut thin piece off tops of each potato. With teaspoon, scoop pulp from tops and inside potatoes into medium bowl, leaving a thin but sturdy potato shell. Mash potato in bowl with potato masher until fairly smooth. Add yogurt and mash until fluffy.

Add spinach mixture, 1/2 cup feta and salt and pepper to taste. Beat with wooden spoon until well blended. Spoon into potato shells, mounding mixture. Place in baking pan with sides. Sprinkle tops with remaining 1/2 cup feta, pressing lightly into surface.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until heated and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

-- Miriam Rubin

food - recipes

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com and on Twitter @mmmrubin. First Published January 24, 2013 5:00 AM


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here