Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stuffed Baked Potatoes or a Promise Kept

The title of this post should be promises kept, since I'm always promising my son I'll make this dish as well I've promised the recipe as part of my Hunger Challenge menu. Sorry, no photo and no exact directions, it's more of a concept than a recipe. Next time I make it I'll try to codify it and update the post.

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 medium size baking potatoes, about 1.5 lbs. Use an Idaho or Russet or similar potato.
1/2 pound chopped vegetables such as broccoli, spinach (cooked or frozen)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk (any kind will work, but fat free will take longer to thicken.)
4 to 8 ounces of chopped or grated cheese, divided in half. (quantity depends on how cheesy you'd like the sauce. For the Hunger Challenge I made it with a sharp cheddar and the lesser amount. Almost any kind of cheese will work well from Swiss to jack to blue, but generally the stronger flavored the cheese the less you can use and still have a good punch of cheese flavor.)
Salt, pepper
Optional seasonings (such as 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and/or a pinch of red pepper flakes OR a tablespoon of curry powder)

Wash and bake the potatoes in a microwave or conventional oven.

If using frozen vegetables, cook them now and drain well. Set aside.

Once the potatoes are cooked, let cool a bit until they can be handled (you may want to hold them in a dish towel). Cut each in half horizontally so you have two long "boats" from each potato. Scoop out flesh, mash it with a fork and set aside.

In a dry saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat and then stir the flour with a fork or whisk. Stir continuously until the flour and butter are fully incorporated and somewhat smooth. Add the milk to the flour and butter mixture slowly, stirring with the fork or whisk continuously, trying to get the mixture as smooth as possible. Once all the milk has been added, raise the heat to medium and cook the flour-butter-milk sauce stirring continuously until the mixture thickens (it should coat the back of a tablespoon instead of dripping off immediately at this put it will be about half of its original volume). The sauce should have reached a bubbling, gentle boil, but be careful it doesn't burn. The constant stirring will help this. Add half of the cheese, the set aside mashed potatoes and the vegetables. Mix well. Taste and add salt and pepper and optional seasonings if using. Stir well. Take off pan in the heat.

Spoon mixture equally in the eight potato halves. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Reheat in microwave before serving if desired. Makes 4 servings, 2 halves each.

Variation: Double-Baked Stuffed Potatoes -- If using a conventional (not microwave oven), sprinkle the tops of the potatoes with paprika (optional) and put the potatoes in hot oven until the potatoes have reheated, the stuffing top is a bit crusty and the cheese on top has melted.

Note: You have just made a basic white sauce. You can use this technique to make your own cheese sauce for homemade mac and cheese, nachos, etc. Also, the stuffed potato recipe can be varied almost infinitely to suit available ingredients and your family tastes.

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