Bacon gets me excited, but after my last post, I think everybody knows that.
In honor of International Bacon Day coming up next weekend, I thought it best to give some of my favorite recipes including my favorite part of the pig, and then some others.
Bacon bits have always been a favorite topping for me, especially on baked potatoes. I remember some of my first dinners where my parents allowed me to order steak when we went out to eat, and for some reason I remember there always being the option of having a baked potato on the side. When asked what toppings I would like, first out of my mouth was "bacon!" and then the announcement that butter, sour cream, and chives would be acceptable as well. Even with the creaminess of the sour cream, added lusciousness of the butter, and slight onion flavor of the chives, the meaty, salty, smoky goodness of the bacon just seemed to round out the whole side dish.
My mom used to make us baked potatoes throughout my "youth", but she didn't make bacon bits from scratch - instead we were left with the lovely invention of BacOs. And, BacOs just doesn't cut it compared to the real thing.
Then, my Mom started making twice baked potatoes. I remember helping her once, her slicing the potatoes in half horizontally, me scooping out the fluffy center into a bowl making sure to leave a little bit inside next to the walls of the skin to create a "vessel" for our stuffing. Into the bowl would be an "eyeball measure" of sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, Lawry's Garlic Salt, and Lawry's Seasoning Salt (Mom's two staples). She then would mix it all together to a smooth mixture and stuff the potato skin-vessels with the mixture. She then would wrap them in foil or pack them into a casserole dish to be baked immediately or at a later date. When we did get the chance to eat this so-simple-yet-delicious concoction, on the BacOs would go again!
I recently was inspired to make my version of twice-baked potatoes for an outdoor 4th of July barbecue, but this time, the BacOs wouldn't even make it to my dish, let alone shopping bag, or shopping list, for that matter. And, in the matter of how my Mom cooks, I decided to "eyeball measure" my ingredients as well.
First, I took 9 Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean, and placed them directly on the rack in a preheated 375F oven, and baked for about 1 1/2 hours (until slightly soft to the touch).
Meanwhile, I slice up my bacon. I don't think I have ever had nitrate-free bacon (nitrate, though a preservative, has been linked to bad health issues), but bought it anyways. Once sliced, add to a cool pan, THEN turn on the heat to medium and continue to cook and stir until all cooked through. Allow to cool and drain on a paper towel (and save the bacon fat for later cooking!).
Once the potatoes are done, I remove them and allow them to cool slightly (about 20 minutes) so that they don't burn my hands!
Once they cool down, slice the potatoes horizontally, but I like to not cut them completely in half. Rather, I slice off about the top 1/4th of the potato, scrape the potato "meat" out of the top and the soon to be "vessel".
Then, you are left with these beautiful potato "boats".
Then, I chop my bunch of chives and add them to my bowl of potatoes:
Along with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and BACON.
Once again, I have "eyeballed" my measurements, so I can't really provide a real recipe. All I can say is it should look like had have the texture of mashed potatoes. And, the best part, is you get a little bit of every morsel (including bacon) in every bite.
Picture is slightly blurry, but fill the potatoes with the mixture and make sure to fill them well. You will have a little left over to snack on!
I like to make my twice baked potatoes a day ahead to allow all of the flavors merry together, but you can definitely make these potatoes and go to bake them right after you fill them. Total work time? Probably 2 hours, but you can get the bacon cooked, chives cut, and cheese shredded all while the potatoes cook. When ready to bake, reheat at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Sometimes I like to put them under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes to brown the top of the potatoes.
These twice baked potatoes are fantastic. As I mentioned, you get a bit of everything in every bite. Just make sure you add enough of every ingredient, especially the bacon. Especially the bacon.