Did you know that today is annual 'Husband Appreciation Day'? According to the calendar Graham gave me for our anniversary, today is the day when all husbands are supposed to be appreciated. Don't worry, it's one of many silly and fun 'holidays' that ended up on my calendar. I didn't even see a sign at Hallmark this week, so I think that's a good sign.
A few months ago I got sick. On Valentine's Day, no less! I vowed to make it up to Graham in the form of a fun day and delicious meal, but we've both been so busy the last few weeks and it inadvertently got put on the back burner. I didn't mean for it to be two months after the fact, it just happened. Once I flipped the calendar to April and saw that Husband Appreciation Day was this month, I decided to make his thank you day today. Maybe that's cheap, but I don't think he cared much.
I knew exactly what meal I wanted to make for today, including dessert. I just needed recipes. Once I found them I was more than satisfied. I call this recipe my own, but it's a greatly modified Pioneer Woman recipe. I'll give her credit, mostly because I'm cool like that.
2 large baking potatoes (or Idaho or Russet, whatever they're called in your neck of the woods)
1 stick of butter at room temperature
6 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 c. bacon bits (or fried, crumbled bacon)
1 c. grated cheese (I used 1/2 sharp cheddar, 1/2 colby-jack blend)
1 tsp. Lawry's seasoning salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. chopped chives, plus more for topping
Bake potatoes at 425 F. for 1 hour. Don't salt or rub olive oil on the potatoes--the skins need to be dry for later on. Lower oven heat to 350 F.
When potatoes are done, remove from over (duh). While still warm/hot from the oven (handle them with an oven mitt or something or you'll lose the use of your hand for a week) halve them lengthwise. Using a spoon, carefully remove the insides and scoop into a bowl. Be careful not to tear the skins, and leave a small amount of potato inside the skins; this will give them a little more structure and will help keep them from folding in on one another.
When all four potato halves have been scooped into a bowl, cut butter into pats and add butter, cream cheese, bacon bits, and cheese into the bowl and mix or mash together. Mash until potatoes are smooth and creamy.
Add Lawry's, pepper, and chives. Mix well. Add more to taste, if necessary.
Carefully spoon the potato mixture back into the potato skins. Large halves should hold 4 generous scoops. Be sure to press it down into the potato skins but be careful not to break them or tear them.
Top with chives if desired. Bake at 350 F. for 15-20 minutes or until potato filling has melted down into the shells. Serve warm.
- You can top these with just about anything...extra bacon, chives, cheese...PW uses green onions. I just like the way the chives looked and tasted.
- I was going to fry up some bacon and crumble it, but I'm lazy. When I saw that PW used bacon bits I was all over it. I love not having to use another pan.
- I use Lawry's, just like Ms. Pioneer Woman. I like that it adds a hint of flavor to potatoes without being so overpowering. You can substitute this with salt, surely, but just taste and add pepper to balance it out.
- Sour cream would be a very appropriate substitute for the cream cheese, and perhaps a little easier to work with. Next time I'm bored I might even try plain yogurt and see what happens.
- As you can see, I didn't care enough to make the tops of my potatoes pretty. I didn't care enough and was even running out of time. If you're feeling particularly homemakery, you could easily pretty these up with the tongs of a fork or something. Whatever makes you happy, I suppose.
- Graham really, really loved these. He loves twice baked potatoes in general, so going the extra mile for his special dinner really said something. These were really easy to make and I had time to do a load of dishes while waiting for the potatoes to bake. And, Graham HAAAAATES melted cheese. Really hates it, in fact. I used slightly less than a full cup, I suppose, but the cheese melted right in and didn't have the melty texture he hates so much.
- Speaking of cheese, I self-grated this time. I'm normally all about shortcuts, but I was already using the bacon bits. Plus, I got a box grater (finally) and figured that it was the perfect time to give it a test drive and it took no time at all. I purchased a block of sharp cheddar and colby-jack and shredded half a cup of each. They worked together beautifully and I was actually able to grade the cheese a little finer than had I used packaged shredded cheese. That really helped the cheese melt together with the potatoes.
- Because this was 'Graham's special dinner' I served these with ranch steaks (not exactly sure what makes them ranch, except that Markey Day says so) and steamed broccoli. All in all it was a well rounded meal. The broccoli provided a nice 'palate cleansing' between the steak and potatoes.