My love for the twice-baked potato knows no bounds. I mean, we're basically talking about mashed potatoes mixed with cheese and other good things, stuffed inside a potato skin, and baked until crispy. How could that be bad? Answer: it can't.
I'll eat these any old time and with all manner of fillings. But if you're headed to a Super Bowl Party next week, this bacon-cheddar version is a guaranteed hit. I love a few strips of really smoky thick-cut bacon for this recipe. The thicker slices make for a bit of crisp and a bit of chew in every bite. And of course, the campfire flavor ends up permeating the entire potato. If I can find smoked cheddar cheese to go with, I'm in heaven.
Whatever you do, get the best ingredients you can find for this recipe. With so few of them, their quality makes a big difference.
You can also make these potatoes the day or morning before you want to serve them. Just prepare everything up to stuffing the skins. When ready to serve, just put them on a baking sheet, top with a little cheese, and bake until warmed through.
Makes 8 potato halves
This recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
4 good-sized russet potatoes
6 strips thick-cut bacon (or 8 strips thin-cut bacon), diced
1 large yellow onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt (sea salt is great if you have it)
Heat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Scrub the potatoes clean, rub them will olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Prick the potatoes a few times with the tines of a fork. Arrange them a little ways apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until they are completely soft when pierced with a fork and the skins are dry.
While the potatoes are baking, begin preparing the filling. Warm a skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon has crisped to your liking. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Pour off all but a teaspoon of the bacon fat. Cook the onions with a half teaspoon of salt until the onions are deep golden and caramelized. Stir in the garlic and cook for another thirty seconds. Remove from heat.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in half and scoop the insides into a medium-sized bowl. Leave a quarter inch or so of potato next to the skin. Mash the potatoes with the onions, garlic, bacon, sour cream, and about 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese. Give it a taste, and add more salt and pepper as you see fit.
Arrange the potato skins on the baking sheet. Divide the filling between all the skins and sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. At this point, the potatoes can be baked right away, or refrigerated and baked later.
Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the peaks of the mashed potatoes are crispy. Potatoes that were refrigerated may take a little longer. Serve straight off the baking sheet while still hot and bubbly. Leftovers will keep for up to a week.
(Images: Emma Christensen)