Monday: Twice-Baked Potatoes and Roasted Carrots

Here’s my inspiration (found in America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Here’s the note that they include in the recipe book:

To vary the flavor a bit, try substituting other types of cheese, such as Gruyere, fontina, or feta, for the cheddar.  Yukon Gold potatoes, though slightly more moist than our ideal, gave our twice-baked potatoes a buttery flavor and mouthfeel that everyone liked, so we recommend them as a substitution for the russets.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil
  • 4 total ounces sharp white cheddar, swiss, and regular medium cheddar cheeses, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 medium scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet until the skin is crisp and deep brown and a skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour.  Setting the baking sheet aside, transfer the potatoes to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  2. Using an oven mitt or a folded kitchen towel to handle the hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that the long, blunt sides rest on a work surface.  Using a small spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into a medium bowl, leaving 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the flesh in each shell.  Arrange the shells on the lined baking sheet and return them to the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mash the potato flesh with a fork until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients, including pepper to taste, until well combined.
  3. Remove the shells from the oven and increase the oven setting to broil.  Holding the shells steady on the baking sheet with an oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon the mixture into the crisped shells, mounding it slightly at the center, and return the potatoes to the oven.  Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm.

Roasted Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds baby carrots, peeled and cut into 1″-2″ lengths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspon salt

Preparation:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Toss the carrots, oil, and salt in the broiler pan bottom.  Spread the coarrots in a single layer and roast for 12 minutes.  Shake the pan to toss the carrots.  Continue roasting, shaking the pan twice more, until the carrots are browned and tender, about 8 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

With our hectic schedules, it is common for us to arrive home from ballet at 8 or 8:30 at night.  On those  nights, we dislike having to begin cooking dinner, and we’ve started avoiding any of the meals we might want to have that involve baking for any length of time.  We have an oven that has a delayed bake function, but I never got around to learning how to use it until today.  It seems like this could pave the way towards all kinds of wonderful dinners that we could eat hot out of the oven just minutes after we arrive home.  This time, of course, I only did the pre-bake on the potatoes so they’d finish just as I was scheduled to get home from work today.  With a multi-part meal like this, it will be useful to be able to start the meal during a lunch break or when I’m home to get ready for ballet class, and finish after arriving  back at home in the evening.  Besides those good aspects, I LOVE baked potatoes, which are a super cheap, easy and filing side to several different meals.  I’ve avoided adding baked potatoes to our menu because of the hour it takes for them to bake (tried microwave recipes, but even the best of those need to be finished in the oven to give you a good potato skin).  I’m seeing whole new realms of menu possibilities opening up for us!

In order to make this meal work, I turned up the oven to 475 after I took the potato skins out of the oven, while I stuffed the skins.  Then I roasted the carrots, removed them to dinner plates, and then completed the broiling step on the twiced baked potatoes.  Although I usually love the scallions in this recipe, it’s also good without them.  So when I’d already sent Trav to the store with this week’s grocery list, I didn’t worry about the fact that we didn’t have anything green onionish.  This utilized the leftovers of a couple different kinds of cheese, and I usually like the buttermilk in the recipe, but the carton we had as bad before I got around to making this, so it was regular milk instead.

Still tasty – I really love the carrots roasted; the carmelization really adds to the sweetness of the carrot, and you can roast them to a good consistency without overcooking.  I’m naming this meal a win!

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