I always say to myself when I’m at the store, “Oh, this 5 lb. bag of potatoes is on sale, I should get them.” Then I buy them, stick them in my pantry, and then forget about them until the spuds have already started growing new roots. Well. There goes a perfectly good bag of potatoes.
It seems ridiculous because I can think of so many things I can make with potatoes, but I never get around to doing anything about it. You’ve got mashed potatoes, hash, potatoes au gratin, latkes, roasted potatoes and root vegetables, the list goes on and on.
One of my go-to potato recipes for something I know will be well received is the good old fashioned twice baked potato. Who doesn’t like potato filled with bacon and dairy? I’ll tell you who, no one. Even my roommate who refuses to eat vegetables will munch on this. The highest complement. (Yes, I know potatoes are actually a starch).
Twice baked potatoes, like some other potato dishes, excels at being a dish where I actually don’t need a specific type of potato. I know the classic baked potato is the glorious russet. But in reality, you can use red potatoes or, as in the case of this recipe, yellow potatoes as well.
So everything begins with the roasting of the potato. I love to roast them in the oven because, even though it takes infinitely longer to cook than just popping them in the microwave and pressing that handy-dandy “potato” button, the skin comes out so much better. Now if you don’t like to eat the skin, you can go for the microwave approach. But that’s just a waste of potato skin.
Depending on the size, potatoes need a long time to roast in the over because there’s just so much mass for the heat to permeate through (heat transport isn’t all that convenient). Since I’m using pretty small potatoes, I can get away with a short 1 hour cook time. But any bigger and all those roasted potato recipes are lying to you. If it says one hour for a large russet potato, just know it’s more like two.
As with anything, you must season your potato. You’ll flavor the skin nicely, making it more appetizing, and some of that salt will actually get into the potato flesh as well. I just pour some olive oil, salt and pepper over the top of the potatoes and rub them around in it until every inch of the potato is covered in oily goodness. Then you just throw those puppies in the oven and let them cook. I like to turn them halfway through the cook time so that the skin has a chance to really crisp up on both sides. But that is totally optional.
Remember: no matter how you’re cooking your potatoes always poke holes in them unless you want a potato explosion. Scientific fact! Potatoes are somewhere around 75-80% water. Because of the skin around them, when they’re heated the water gasifies but doesn’t have a good way to escape. You’ll get a build-up of pressure and the potato will explode. This is a larger threat when microwaving them since potatoes are being cooked faster and the microwaves vaporize the water at a higher rate. But regardless, it’s better to always to it to prevent a ticking potato-bomb.
I mean, don’t these just look so nice? And they’re about to become cute little twice-baked potatoes.
While your potatoes cook you can prepare the other components of the potato filling. I fry up some bacon, usually one strip for every potato, and reserve the bacon fat for something else I might be making. Next I prepare the caramelized onion and garlic. This was something I learned to do after I got into college thanks to one friendsgiving dinner. We like to go up to my roommate’s parents house for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner. Her father would fry up some onions in butter and add that to his mashed potatoes. I adopted that practice because it makes them taste so much better than just boring old mashed potatoes.
It’s pretty simple, just melt some butter in a skillet and add your onions and garlic. I really only crush the garlic because I don’t want it to cook much more quickly than the onions and the onions are sliced into large chunks so they don’t get lost in the final product. Since I use unsalted butter, I add a little bit of salt, some pepper, and a handful of sugar. SUGAR?! I know it seems counter-intuitive. Adding a sweetener to a savory dish, but it’s what makes these damn things so good. The sugar will combine with the butter and as the onions cook in this mixture, they basically brown up and become almost like candy. Onion candy may sound a little unappealing, but don’t judge a book by its cover.
Look at that onion candy goodness. We like ours a little on the burned side, but if you don’t like it that cooked, you can just cook it for less time. It’s all about finding what you like best.
Once the potatoes are nice and cooked, I take them out and let them cool a bit. Since I’m rather insensitive to heat in my hands nowadays, I don’t have to wait long, but those things will be hot and you’ll need to be able to hold them for an extended period of time for this next step. If you want to cut down on the time, you can always throw them in the fridge for a little bit. You’ll be reheating them so it won’t really matter.
Now you gotta gut them. I cut off the vary tops, a little less than a quarter of the way down the potato and then scoop out most of the flesh. You gotta leave a little bit around the skin so that the potato can keep it’s potato shape, but not a whole lot. Once all of your potato is scooped into a bowl and mashed up with a fork or your friend the potato masher, add the butter and onions, the bacon chopped into bits, a heaping of sour cream, a handful of cheese, and a little bit of milk. The milk only plays a minor role here to get the texture of the mashed potatoes to a consistency that you like. Then you pile this mashed potato mixture into the potato skins, top it with a handful of cheese and put them back in the oven until they’re heated through.
Your final product will be this little cutie made just for you. When I’m feeling particularly lazy and unhealthy, I’ll make one of these to just eat for dinner. But they make a great side dish and are perfect for getting rid of your excess potatoes.
Twice Baked Potatoes
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 1.5 hours
- 3 Yellow potatoes
- 1 small onion (~3/4 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbs Olive oil
- 4 tbs butter
- 3 slices of bacon
- ½ cup sour cream
- 3 tsp milk
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese + more for topping
- 1 tbs sugar
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
Using a fork, poke holes all over the surface of the potato. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each potato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub to evenly distribute oil and seasoning onto the whole potato. Place into preheated over and cook for 1 hour, turning potatoes halfway through cooking time. While potatoes are cooking, cook bacon in a non-stick skillet until desired doneness. Drain bacon fat and melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add chopped onions and garlic and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix to coat evenly and let caramelize on medium low heat until onions are soft and browned.
Once potatoes are done, take them out of the oven and set aside to cool. Cut the tops off the potatoes, making sure to not cut perfectly in half. Scoop out inside of the larger potato, without breaking the skin, into a separate bowl. Be sure to leave a thin layer of potato around the skin to hold the baked potato together. Repeat with the others.
Mash the potatoes and add butter and onions, stir to combine. Add sour cream, milk, and cheese. Cut bacon into pieces and add to potato mixture. Scoop mashed potatoes into the reserves potatoes skins and top with more cheese. Place into over and cook for another 10 minutes or until cheese is nice and melted and potato is reheated through.