I don't know who invented the twice-baked potato, but whoever it is, he (or she) deserves a hallowed spot in the hall of fame of greatest human beings who have ever lived. It has all the rustic goodness of a baked potato, but with the smooth texture and richness of mashed potatoes. You can dress it however you like--make it a savory garlic flavor or fully load it with sour cream, cheese, and bacon--and its homogeneity ensures that you don't have to worry about one bite being flavorful while another is bland. It is, in short, the perfect potato side dish, although there is no rule that says you can't eat one by itself. My version keeps things relatively light by only including a spattering of butter and by using milk instead of cream (sour or otherwise). The bacon bits and chives are wholly optional, of course, but I can't imagine a twice-baked potato without them.
Preheat oven at 400°. Wash the potatoes, place them on a baking sheet, and pierce them with a fork. Place in the warming oven and bake for one hour.
Using oven mitts or heat-resistant gloves, carefully cut each potato in half. Then, with a spoon, carve the flesh into a mixing bowl, leaving an eighth of an inch or so in each potato skin. Set the skins aside.
To the mixing bowl, add butter, milk, cheese, salt, and pepper. Mash until it reaches the desired consistency.
Sprinkle salt into each potato skin and then spoon in the mashed potato mixture. Top with bacon bits and chives.
Bake for an additional 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Don't forget to share with people who are sufficiently cute to deserve it.
-e. magill 6/4/2012
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