Stuffed potatoes are a very tasty and versatile dish, even if I suspect that some of the versions are essentially a heart attack on a plate, loaded as they are with butter, cheese, and often bacon or ham.
This adaptation is much better than that, healthwise, but still contains more fat and cholesterol-laden ingredients than the vast majority of my recipes.
But as I’ve mentioned many a time before, my approach to diet and eating is “everything in moderation”. I would never make a regular habit of this kind of meal, but a few times a year, I'm going to go ahead and enjoy it.
This was just such a week. The weather has been remarkably stormy and dreary; it’s March, a long gray month in these parts; and I was in the mood for some real comfort food. This recipe fits the bill nicely.
It is not a quick meal, so it's best suited for cooking on the weekend. In fact, it typically takes between 75-90 minutes, start to finish, because you have to bake the potatoes first. You could do them in the microwave, of course, but you do not get the crispy skin the way you do when you bake them in the oven. Still, that would be a major time saver and would probably work just fine.
Regardless of how you cook the potatoes to start, I have to warn you that working with baked potatoes fresh out of the oven gives absolute clarity to the term “ hot potato issue” or "dropped like a hot potato". If you don't take care, it can be a very painful, burning experience.
Another option is to cook the potatoes ahead of time, such as the day before you want to make the meal. That way they have a chance to cool and are much easier to hold.
However, with this method, you will need to add cooking time to the second baking step, since the potatoes will be starting out cold when you put them in the oven. Cook them at 350°F for around 30 minutes and then pop them under the broiler for about 5 minutes, and they'll be perfect.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 6 generous servings
Total Prep Time – 5-10 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time – 75-90 minutes
Total Recipe Cost – approximately $6
Total per person meal cost with salad – approximately $1.50
2-3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
6-8 large baking potatoes
8 ounces of brick cheddar, or 2 cups shredded cheddar (or cheese of your choice)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 eggs (optional)
1 cup frozen chopped spinach (optional)
1 medium/large broccoli crown
1 -2 cups frozen, chopped broccoli
1 bunch green onions or one small onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup cream, milk, or half and half
4 tablespoons butter, margarine, or olive oil
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
½ teaspoon black pepper (to taste)
Plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 450°F Bake
- Wash and scrub the 6 potatoes and cut off any major blemishes.
- Coat the potatoes with about a tablespoon of oil by rolling them in it, or putting some on your hands and rubbing them all over with it.
- Lightly salt the potatoes all over.
- Cut a deep slit down the entire length of the potato
- Put the potatoes on a shallow baking dish and place it on a lower rack in the oven. Set the timer for 60 minutes, so you can check them at that time.
- Meanwhile, grate the 8 ounces of cheese if it is not already done. Reserve 1 cup on the side to top the potatoes. Put the remaining 1 cup or so, along with the ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, in a mixing bowl.
- If you’re using frozen broccoli, measure out the 1-1½ cups. More is fine, too. The amount will depend on your personal taste. Put it in a covered microwave-safe dish and microwave it on high for about 5 minutes. Drain off any excess water and set aside.
- If you’re using fresh, then wash the broccoli and cut the crown portions off the stems. Cut the stems into small pieces. Cut the crowns into small pieces, about ¾-inch in size, so they are still recognizable as crowns. That’s optional. You can also just chop them, if that’s easier.
- Measure out approximately 1 cup of frozen spinach and thaw it in a covered, microwavable container on low power for about 1-2 minutes. Drain off any excess water.
- Wash the green onions and cut them their entire length into small disks about ¼-inch in width. Or dice the onion into small pieces.
- Peel and chop or mince the 4 cloves of garlic.
- Heat a tablespoon of canola or olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the green onions or the onion and the cut up fresh broccoli, if that's what you are using. Cook them, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes, until the broccoli is just becoming tender.
- Add the chopped or minced garlic and the thawed spinach and the cooked, previously frozen broccoli (if that's what you are using) and cook for a couple of minutes more. Take the pan off the heat. Remove several intact broccoli crowns to a separate plate (optional)
- When the timer goes off, check the potatoes for doneness by squeezing them with a mitted hand. Alternatively, you can poke them with a fork or knife. They are done if they give or are pierced easily.
- Cut the potatoes in half along the slit you made earlier.
- Put on rubber gloves or an oven mitt for this step. Scoop the potato out of the skins into the mixing bowl with the cheddar and Parmesan cheese, leaving just enough potato around the edges for the peel to hold its shape. Place the empty peels in a baking dish.
- Mash and mix the potatoes with the cheeses and the 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine with a large spoon or masher.
- If you're using them, beat the eggs in the 1 cup of cream or milk, along with the ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and pour them into the potato mixture and mix well. Or just add the cream and salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix well.
- Add the cooked vegetables, except the broccoli crowns you set aside, along with the garlic and onions.
- Mix all the ingredients together well.
- Mound and press the potato filling into the empty peels in the baking dish. Top with the reserved cheese, and finish off with the broccoli crowns you chose to set aside.
- Place the pan in the pre-heated 450° oven for about 15 minutes, until everything is heated through and the cheese is entirely melted and slightly golden. If desired, you may pop them under the broiler for a few minutes to achieve the desired golden color.
- Serve the potato skins with a generous side of plain yogurt and a tossed green salad for a very tasty, satisfying meal.