March 5, 2007

Nancy Howard’s Twice Baked Potatoes

[Because potatoes are a root vegetable.]

My mom didn’t (yet) provide a story, so I’ll just make a little comment of my own: It seems to be a human tendency to favor the flavors we’ve been raised on, more or less, and I must have this quality, too, even though I like to try new versions of things. All I know about my mom’s twice baked potatoes is that I’ve never had any I liked better. Hers are, compared to most others, delicate. There is none of that heavy, chunky, welcome to Steaks ‘R Us uber-substantiality to them. And I like that – their lightness. It’s possible to feel like a princess while eating these, which is, with certain dishes, a quality assurance test I often employ.

Oh, she did point out that the Velveeta is mandatory. "Nothing melts like Velveeta," she said. We also agreed that the full fat version is far superior to the so-called "Lite." It's your life, but I'd say there are less traumatic ways to cut down on bad fats than by adulterating your Velveeta (or half-and-half, or mayonnaise).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Four dry baking potatoes (Russet or Idaho)
Enough hot milk to make stiff-ish whipped potatoes
1/8 lb. or so of unsalted butter (at room temp. if possible)
Velveeta, four medium-thin slices

1. Liberally grease the potatoes with butter or shortening.
2. Place potatoes directly on the oven’s middle rack.
3. Bake about 1 hour, 15 minutes, until easily pierced through to center.
4. Remove from oven, but leave the oven on.
5. Cut the potatoes open -- in halves – immediately, to let steam escape (otherwise they will become too dense).
6. Heat the milk in a sauce pan.
7. When the potatoes have cooled just enough to handle, scoop the potato insides into a mixing bowl, being careful not to break the skins.
8. Put the butter on the potatoes to melt, and stir in.
9. Add some salt and pepper.
10. Stream in a little bit of the hot milk, stir, and begin to whip. Add milk as needed – but remember, you want a fairly stiff mixture.
11. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
12. Put the whipped potatoes back into the skins, top with Velveeta, and put back in the already-hot oven until the Velveeta melts.

Serve hot. Grilled meat and a green salad won’t hurt.

-- Nancy Howard

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