Once a year dear friends of ours invite us over to celebrate Christmas with a celebratory Saturday night dinner. It has proven so successful that even the menu has become part of their entertaining tradition. I don't want to appear ungrateful, I think it's lovely that they serve filet mignon, and end with chocolate cake. But what I really crave, what really fills me with warmth, love, and gratitude, are the twice-baked potatoes. I wait for them all year long. And I even ask for seconds, to get me through the coming year.
Believe it or not, it only recently occurred to me that I didn't have to wait a year, I could make them on my own. O the thrill of cold weather! The excuse to light the oven and keep it burning!
Here is what you'll need:
Fat russet baking potatoes. Heat your oven to 425 degrees, rinse your potatoes, dry them, then using a stick of butter smear a bit of butter all over their exteriors. Place in oven for 30 minutes. Remove--prick all over with a fork (a tip from the Joy of Cooking) and bake another 20-30 minutes, depending on the size.
Remove from oven, slit them in half length wise. Scoop out potato flesh, drop into a mixing bowl.
Per potato add to the bowl: a tablespoon butter, a tablespoon or so of sour cream and milk, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons sharp cheddar cheese (and bacon! and chives!) Mash your potatoes, coarsely. Place the filling back into their skins (or jackets). Taste the mixture. Missing something? If it doesn't taste good now, it's not gonna taste good later. Add it now. Grate a bit more cheddar cheese on top as a garnish, and return to oven to bake 5 minutes.
Now there's no reason to wait a year between your twice-baked potatoes.
Novice chefs may wonder: will they need oven mitts? Yes. Yes. Yes.
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