Friday, January 11, 2008

January 11: Twice-Baked Potatoes With Broccoli and Cheese

I will admit that I put a little more effort in on Friday and Saturday nights, Saturday in particular. I would think that most people, especially most people with full-time, high-maintenence jobs, probably would. During the week, I look for dinner to take no more than an hour and a half to cook, consume, and clean up after.

On Friday or Saturday, I am more likely to put in a little time. That's why this is a Friday-or-Saturday dish--it involves baking, cooling, slicing, and hollowing out potatoes, baking the potato shells again to dry them out a little, making the filling, stuffing the shells, and baking them again. It is time-consuming and a little labor-intensive.

My mother went on this diet when I was about 21. She was excessively grouchy for about three months, because she was restricted to about 1000 calories a day, and she was doing these incredibly difficult 2-hour workouts every day. I would probably be worse than grouchy--homicidal might be more accurate--but one of the things she got to eat was a crabmeat-stuffed baked potato. It was really quite fabulous.

I like food stuffed in other food. There's something really good and sort of premeditated about it, it requires some planning ahead and doing some work. The cafeteria at my husband's school serves a stuffed baked potato with broccoli and cheese on Mondays. I think this has potential to be really great, not at all cafeteria food.

This would be a great side dish with steak or baked chicken and a salad. I like that it incorporates both a starch and a vegetable; it's like an almost-one-dish-meal. I make extra of these every time I make them, and then Dan takes them in his lunch. I really think the key to this is the filling, and I like a lot of it, so I bake an extra potato just for the insides.

Oh, speaking of potatoes, I have to tell this story about my stepfather, Tom. Tom doesn't like to cook--but he loves to eat. Tom had a small collection of recipes in a recipe file, and my mother kept the file because it is just so fricking funny. It contains things like directions for heating up Campbell's Tomato Soup in the microwave, and grilling a steak (that recipe starts with "light a fire..."). One of my very favorite recipes is his recipe for baked potatoes. The card says:

Baked Potato
Makes 1.

1 Potato

Turn the oven on to 400.
Stab the potato with a fork.
Put it in the oven until it's done (1 hour).

I have to admit that this recipe is perfectly serviceable. Even better than that, it sounds like an opera written by my stepfather.

Slightly further down this road is this dish. I make it out of my head, basically, without really using a recipe, but I'll try. Make extra, they reheat well. Serves 4 generously.

Twice-Baked Potatoes With Broccoli and Cheddar
5 All-Purpose potatoes, scrubbed, and pierced all over with a fork
1 package Boursin shallot and chive cheese, or other flavored cheese spread
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup broccoli, cut into small bites, steamed until tender-crisp, and cooled, or 1 cup chopped frozen broccoli, thawed
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/8 tsp. freshly ground coarse black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Put potatoes straight onto oven racks and bake until very slightly undercooked, about 50 minutes. Let the potatoes cool slightly, about fifteen minutes.

Cut the potatoes in half horizontally. (note: Potatoes have a slightly flatter side. Cut parallel to that flatter side, your final product will lay flatter as it's filled and baked.) With a spoon, carefully hollow out each potato half, leaving a 1/4 inch thick potato shell. Put eight of the shells onto a sheet pan and return to the oven for about 10 minutes, until slightly dried out and browned. Discard the last two shells, or save for potato skins or some other use.

Prepare the filling--combine the Boursin, sour cream, butter, and broccoli in a mixing bowl. Use a potato ricer, if you have one, on the potato flesh and add to the Boursin mixture, mixing together. Fold 1 cup of the cheddar into the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fill each potato shell with a heaping amount of filling. Place back on sheet pan. Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of cheese over potatoes and slide back into the oven until filling is hot and browning slightly, 15-20 minutes. Serve.

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