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Loaded Potato Skins

We recently attended a potluck event and I signed up to bring both an appetizer and a dessert.  David and I had been talking about how much fun it would be to make our own potato skins, so I thought this would be the perfect dish to take along.  It’s hard to go wrong with potato skins.  You get the slightly crispy outer shell of a potato and you get to fill it with whatever you want.  It’s like getting the perfect bit of a baked potato every time.  I filled them with the obvious choices- cheese and bacon!  These were also incredibly simple to make.  I baked and prepped the potatoes early in the day and right before leaving, I popped them in the oven to broil for a few minutes so they would be fresh when served.  These were a big hit.  David was definitely satisfied at this version of homemade potato skins and we will make it a point to have them around when football season rolls around this fall!

Loaded Potato Skins
Source: adapted from Simple Comfort Food

6-8 small russet or Yukon potatoes, rinsed clean

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

¼ stick unsalted butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Poke the top of each potato with a fork and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 60-70 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Cook bacon on stove over low heat, about 10 minutes.  Remove, drain on paper towels, then crumble into small pieces.

Once potatoes are cool, cut in half lengthwise, so that each potato will yield 2 skins.  Carefully scoop out center of the potato, while still leaving some potato in the boat.

Heat broiler to high.  Brush melted butter on the inside and outside of the potatoes.  Season each side with salt and pepper.  Place under the broiler for 8-10 minutes to allow the insides to get crispy.  Remove from oven and place cheese and bacon on each skin.  Return to the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove from oven and serve.

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes

I have really been enjoying Mexican Everyday and have been trying to cook as many things from it as possible. There are so many delicious recipes and I want to try them all! I really like fish, but haven’t really tried it very many times with Mexican flavors, so I wanted to give this recipe a try. I thought the potatoes sounded really good as well. This is a simple dish, and one that I made on a Friday after a long week, making it a good possibility for weeknight dinners. To prepare the potatoes, you just steam them in the microwave (can it get any easier?), and while they are cooking, just blend the tomatoes, jalapenos, and the spices in the blender. You can make the mixture as smooth or chunky as you want. After the potatoes are done, just layer the fish on top, pour the tomato mixture over it, bake for 15-20 minutes, and dinner is ready! I also like that you can adjust the spiciness of the dish- if you don’t like spicy, just don’t add as much jalapeno, and if you like it spicy, just add more!

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
Source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

Serves 4

4 medium (1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

Salt

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice

1 large garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

1/3 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish

About ¼ cup sliced canned pickled jalapenos

1 tablespoon jalapeno pickling juice

Four 4- to 5-ounce (1 to 1 ¼ pounds total) skinless fish fillets (I used tilapia), preferably ¾ to 1 inch thick

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Scoop the sliced potatoes into a microwaveable 8×8-inch baking dish. Drizzle on the oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Toss to coat, then spread the potatoes in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a couple of holes in the top. Microwave on high until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes with their juice, garlic, cilantro, jalapenos, and pickling juice. Process to a puree, leaving just a little texture.

Lay the fish fillets in a single layer over the potatoes. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the fish and potatoes.

Slide the baking dish into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fish flakes when pressed firmly.

Scoop a portion of the fish-potato-sauce onto each dinner plate, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve right away.

Twiced Baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Cheddar

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I just love potatoes in any form- scalloped, baked, mashed, roasted, and whatever else you can come up with, but my I think my favorite way is twice-baked.  This was the first time I actually made them myself, but my mom has made them many times, mostly as a side for special meals like Easter or birthday dinners.  When I saw this particular combination, I knew that it would be delicious.  I like broccoli and cheddar together, and when added to potatoes, you can’t go wrong!

I made these on a night after David had been sick for a few days and was starting to get his appetite back, and I was in the mood for a lighter meal.  If you eat a whole potato, these are a great one-dish meal, but you could also have half of a potato and serve it as a side dish.  I omitted the scallions because I didn’t have them on hand, but next time I will be sure to include them because they would add even more flavor to this dish.  The potato filling was perfect- light and fluffy, and baked just right.  I love the crisp bites of cheese that form a crust on the outside of a potato, and the mixture of the cheese and broccoli is just right.  Bridget notes that this is heavy on broccoli, but I really enjoy broccoli, so I kept the same proportions she used.  These are the best twice-baked potatoes I’ve ever had, and I will continue to use this combination in the future.

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Twice-Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Scallions
Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Serves 2

2 medium to large baking (russet) potatoes
2 small (or 1 large) broccoli crowns, cut into 1-inch florets with stems no longer than 1 inch
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, softened
½ cup buttermilk
1 scallion, sliced then
1 ounce (¼ cup) cheddar, plus ½ ounce (2 tablespoons)
salt
black pepper

1. Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and stab them several times with a fork. Place them on the oven rack and bake until a fork inserted into the potato meets no resistance, 60-75 minutes.

2. Remove the potatoes from the oven and set them aside until they’re cool enough to handle. Heat the broiler. Meanwhile, bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Place the broccoli florets in a steamer basket and put the steamer basket in the saucepan, making sure that the water does not come into contact with the broccoli. Cover the pot and steam for 4 minutes, until the broccoli is just crisp-tender. (You want it more on the crisp side, since they’ll continue to cook as they cool, plus they’ll spend some time under the broiler.) Remove the steamer basket with the broccoli from the saucepan and discard the water in the pot. Dump the broccoli into the pot and season with a pinch of salt and the lemon juice.

3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the potatoes, leaving a thin coating on the potato skin. In a medium bowl, use a potato masher to mash the potato flesh with the butter. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of ground black pepper, the broccoli, plus the remaining ingredients, except ½ ounce cheddar.

4. Spoon the filling into the potato shells and top with the remaining cheddar. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is spotty brown and the tops are crisp. Serve immediately.


Gnocchi with Oregano-Butter Sauce (and my 100th post!)

I have never had gnocchi until I made this, but after seeing it on a Food Network show (I think it might have been Emeril), I knew I wanted to make it. I somehow just knew that I would love it. The only thing that stopped me was that I did not have a potato ricer. Finally, a few weeks ago, I picked one up at Williams Sonoma and knew that I could be on my way to making gnocchi soon.

I decided to try the version from Cook’s Illustrated because it seemed so straightforward. There were a few recommended sauces: a tomato-mint sauce, pesto, and a butter-sage sauce. I used the butter-sage sauce as inspiration and made it with oregano instead. Gnocchi is surprisingly easy to make. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect in terms of taste, but I was really to find out how delicious it was. David described it as being like potato dumplings. I was really glad he loved it too, because I hate when I love something and he doesn’t because I know that means it will be a long time before I make it again! I really liked the sauce I chose to use with this. It was great with Parmesan cheese on top. I can’t wait to try different sauces when I make this again- and I will most definitely be making this again and again!

Potato Gnocchi (Source: Cook’s Illustrated March 1995)

2 pounds russet potatoes (or other baking potato), washed

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon table salt, plus more for cooking liquid

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes until a metal skewer slides easily through them, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size.

2. Hold potato with a pot holder or kitchen towel and peel it with a vegetable peeler or paring knife (see illustration 1); rice peeled potato into a large bowl. Peel and rice remaining potatoes. Cool until potatoes are no longer hot, about 15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle 1 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt over warm potatoes. Using your hands, work mixture into a soft, smooth dough. If dough is sticky (which is often the case), add more flour as needed, up to 1 1/2 cups total.

4. Roll about one-quarter of dough into a long 3/4-inch-thick rope (illustration 2). If rope won’t hold together (illustration 3), return it to bowl with remaining dough and work in more flour as needed. Repeat until all dough is rolled.

5. Cut rope of dough into 3/4-inch lengths (illustration 4). Holding butter paddle or fork in one hand, press each piece of cut dough against ridged surface with index finger to make an indentation in center. Roll dough down and off ridges and allow it to drop to work surface (illustrations 5, 6, and 7). (Gnocchi can be placed in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerated for several hours. Or, baking sheet can be placed in freezer for about 1 hour. Partially frozen gnocchi can be transferred to plastic bag or container, sealed, and frozen for up to 1 month.)

6. Bring 4 quarts of water to low boil in large pot. Add 2 teaspoons salt or to taste. Add about one-third of the gnocchi and cook until they float, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (about 3 minutes for frozen gnocchi). Retrieve gnocchi with slotted spoon and transfer to warm, shallow serving bowl or platter. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi; see related recipes for topping suggestions.

For Sauce:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 whole fresh sage leaves, cut into thin strips, (other fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, chives, or marjoram can be substituted)- I used oregano

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for passing

7. For Sauce: Melt butter in small skillet. When butter foams, add sage. Remove pan from heat and set aside until needed.