Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cheese-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Some people never share recipes - and that’s their prerogative. Me, I just love to pass along my favorites, knowing how much you’ll enjoy them. This recipe is no exception: It’s been my standby for years, because all the work is done in advance, leaving me free to talk with my guests. For its preparation, I want to recommend another invaluable kitchen tool I always keep handy. It is - drum roll, please! - a curved, serrated grapefruit knife. It cost me all of a dollar, and I could never be without it. In fact, my grapefruit knife would rate high in one of those “What would you take to a desert island?” questions.
“Lemme see ... Lemme see ... Ron? Grapefruit knife? Ron? Grapefruit knife? May I have more time to think about this?” I’ll tell you why this tool is so invaluable as we work through this recipe. You'll then understand why you simply must have one, Dollinks - even if you never eat grapefruit!
Cheese-Stuffed Baked Potatoes:
6 medium baking potatoes
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
Salt and pepper, to taste
⅓ c. whole milk or heavy cream
¾ c. grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. finely chopped green onion (“spring” onion)
Paprika, as garnish 
Extra finely chopped green onion (“spring” onion), as garnish
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Wash and scrub potatoes, leaving skins on. Using a small, sharp paring knife, poke several slits into each potato to allow moisture to escape during baking. Depending on their size, bake potatoes 1-to-2 hr. on your oven’s middle rack, turning potatoes over once or twice. To check their doneness, give each potato a gentle squeeze. When potatoes have finished baking, remove from oven and cut a thin slice from the top, scraping every bit of potato from this thin section. Now comes the fun part! Enter the star of the show ... my (TA-DAH!) grapefruit knife!
This wondrous little tool is exactly right for the job at hand, which is to very carefully hollow the baked potato innards from their jackets before transferring them to a bowl to mash them. Be sure the potatoes are hot ... this easy little job becomes a tough one when they aren’t. Sure, you can hollow the potatoes out with a spoon - but it’s not as accurate and doesn’t slice through the potato as well as a grapefruit knife. What you want to do is leave a “wall” of potato about ⅜-in. thick between the skin and the scooped innards. When you use a grapefruit knife, this job goes so quickly and precisely that you’ll finish almost as soon as you start!
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Reserve the potato skins; you’ll need them again very soon. Blend and mash hot potatoes with butter or margarine, salt and pepper, and milk or cream until light and fluffy. Add cheese and onions. Fill scooped-out shells with potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, 15 min., until top is lightly browned. Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with finely chopped green onion.
Note: Next time you make these, try something different! Instead of using cheese and onions, add 2 c. sliced, sautéed onions and the chopped bits from 6 slices of bacon, fried crispy, well-drained of fat, and blotted dry. 

Hollow potato from its jacket
Dinner guest Svend Hansen helps serve!

Ready for the dinner table! And Svend’s ready for dinner!

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