My early relationship with baked potatoes was a prickly one. Although a capable cook, my mother loathed cooking and took much of her culinary frustrations out on spuds. Russet potatoes were her weekly whipping boys. After vigorously scrubbing and stabbing them with a fork, she would lob the potatoes into the oven and bake them at 400˚F until parchment paper-dry. What could have saved these crumbly creatures—a generous dollop of sour cream or pat of creamy, salted butter—was never applied for ours was a cardiovascular health-conscious, low-fat household.
When I baked potatoes, they didn’t fare much better. Rebelling against my mother’s overcooked creations, I grossly under-baked these root vegetables. In the end they resembled door stops, ones that I fed to our overly plump dog.
While my mother and I waged our separate wars on potatoes, much of the world was enjoying them. As well they should have. Rich in Vitamins C and B-6, complex carbohydrates and potassium, these members of the nightshade family have sustained cultures and countries for centuries. If only they weren’t so dry and mealy, maybe they would sustain me, too.
Just when I was about to give up on tubers altogether, I had dinner at my friend Jenn’s house. On that fateful night her mom served twice-baked potatoes. The thought of a potato being baked not once but twice horrified me. Bring on the extra glasses of milk—this tater was going to be even dryer and deadlier than usual. Yet, it wasn’t. Housed in the crisp, outer skin was a fluffy, savory and succulent potato.
Although new to me, twice-baked potatoes had been around for ages. While their exact origins remain a mystery, how to make them does not. You begin by baking russet potatoes until just done. After slicing them open, you scoop out the flesh and mix it with milk, butter, cheese, bacon, herbs or smoked fish or meats. You then spoon the flavored potatoes back into their skins and bake them until warm and golden. The end result is both moist and delicious. The end result made me a fan of baked spuds.
TWICE-BAKED POTATOES WITH SMOKED TROUT
These potatoes are filling enough to be a meal in themselves. However, If you’re not a fan of smoked fish, leave it out and serve the potatoes as a side dish.
4 large Russet potatoes
1/3 cup milk, warmed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated manchego or Parmesan cheese
handful of chives, diced
1 pound smoked trout fillets, flaked
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Using a fork, poke holes in the potatoes before microwaving them on high for 8 to 10 minutes or until hot and softened. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out most of the flesh, leaving behind a small rim of potato in each skin.
Place the potatoes in a medium bowl and, using a spoon or fork, mash lightly. Add the milk, butter, salt, and pepper and mash again until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the cheese, chives and smoked trout and stir to combine.
Spoon equal amounts of the potato mixture back into the skins. Place the filled skins on a baking sheet and bake until warm and golden-brown on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm.