There are certain foods in this world that somehow seem more elegant or fancier than the rest. Foods at the top of my “fancy” list include steak and twice baked potatoes. In fact, this is the menu twice per year in my household, once for New Year’s Eve and once for our anniversary. There is a reason that the twice baked potato is featured in various holiday cookbooks, it is a perfect side dish for a classic Christmas dinner party when you have guests to impress.
While the twice baked potato is elegant and loved by all, it certainly isn’t a quick dish to make. That’s probably why it’s reserved for the nicer occasions. Fortunately, while it does take a long time to bake, it is overall very easy to prepare. The reason it is a lengthy dish is because of oven time, not because of difficult prep work.
When preparing a nice dinner, one of the elements that needs to be incorporated is presentation. Many people ignore the presentation of food. As my husband frequently says, “It doesn’t matter how it looks if it tastes good.” Overall, this concept is true. Guests rarely comment on how nice a dish looks. For the most part they dig in and begin to talk about the flavor. While I would agree that the taste of the food is paramount in comparison to appearance, there is still something to be said about a beautiful dish when trying to create a fancy feast.
One of the easiest ways to make a dish look nice is to add color. When discussing twice baked potatoes this is usually done through the addition of green onions as a garnish. However, I like to do something different. I prefer including spinach directly into the potato mix. This has two distinct advantages. First, it creates a color presentation with a green hue being added, and secondly, spinach is so tasty and good for you.
Some would think these Spinach Stuffed Potatoes would lean towards the spicy side because they have pepper jack cheese in them; however, the other ingredients provide a perfect balance to them creating a delicate balance of flavors.
2 large Potatoes (at least 6 inches long)
¼ cup Diced Yellow Onion
½ tsp Minced Garlic
¾ cups Spinach Leaves
¼ cup Sour Cream
¼ tsp Black Pepper
½ cup Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
2 tbsp Butter – Divided in Half
1. The first item to take into consideration when preparing twice baked potatoes is the size of the potato. It is very important to make sure that the appropriate size potato is selected or they will not be flavored correctly. I’ve tried to make this recipe with potatoes that were a bit on the small side, and they turned out to be very liquidly since there was now more sour cream in proportion to the potato in the recipe.
This recipe calls for 2 large potatoes, to put a more specific measurement on the word “large;” I consider this to be a potato that is at least 6 inches long. This size of potato not only allows your ingredients to be proportional, but it also creates a decently sized portion for your guests to each have one half of a potato. Therefore, this recipe ends up serving four people.
2. Before making twice baked potatoes, they need to be baked the first time. This is what makes them baked “twice.” I don’t like the skin of my potatoes to get too crispy, so I bake my potatoes on a lower heat for a longer duration the first time around. I heat the oven to 425 degrees and cook them for an hour and half. I usually like to bake my potatoes right away in the morning because then I know they will be room temperature and not too hot to handle by the time that I’m ready to transform them into twice baked potatoes.
3. After the baked potatoes are at room temperature, it is time to transform them into twice baked potatoes. To do this, start by working with the mixed in ingredients. Take the first tbsp of butter and melt it in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute them until tender. I like to chop up the onion into very small pieces before sauteing it because then it both cooks faster, and I prefer to not bite into large onion chunks.
4. When the onion and garlic is almost completely cooked down, add in the spinach to the frying pan and wilt it. Do not be surprised when it looks like you lost quite a bit of spinach after this process. Spinach amounts always seem to decrease when wilting because the leaves become so much smaller. If I were to make this dish for just myself, I would probably put an entire cup of spinach in because I am a fan of spinach, but if you know your guests or family are hesitant about veggies then you may want to keep it to ¾ cups.
5. Once the spinach has been wilted, add all of the contents of the pan into a small mixing bowl. Combine them with the sour cream, pepper, and cheese.
6. Next it is time to turn to the cooled potatoes. Slice the potatoes in half the long way. Then take a spoon and carve out the “innards.” I like to take a spoon and make a small indent along all of the edges before scooping out, about ¼ inch away from the skin edge. These indentations help to serve as a guide so that you don’t end up ripping the fragile shell that you need to save for later.
Kitchen Tip: If you do accidentally rip one of your shells a little, do not panic. If it is a small tear you can take some of the potato innards and push it like a paste against the shell to hold it back together.
7. When the potatoes are “shelled,” put all of the mushy insides into the same mixing bowl that you put the rest of the ingredients in. Lightly mash your potatoes with this mixture. Do NOT mash them until they are chunk free because twice baked potatoes are not the same as mashed potatoes. Only mash until there are small chunks of potatoes left.
8. After the potatoes have been completely mixed and mashed down, it is time to refill the shells. Use a spoon to scoop the shells full of potatoes. It’s okay if this mixture seems like it is heaping a bit higher over the shells. Other ingredients have been added to the potato innards, so they are going to be fuller than they were when the insides were removed.
9. When the potatoes are ready to be baked the second time preheat the oven to only 350 degrees. It doesn’t need to be super hot during the second baking process because everything is already technically cooked. Grease a baking dish and set the potatoes in it. Melt the remaining tbsp of butter and pour it over the top of the potatoes. Then they are ready to go in the oven! Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are completely warmed through.
The nice thing about twice baked potatoes is that they are a dish that can be made up a couple hours before you are ready to cook the rest of the dinner, and then go in for their final baking process just a short time before everyone is ready to eat. I like dishes that offer this convenience. It allows me a chance to socialize with my guests for a while before dinner is served instead of being in the kitchen constantly, or if I have other more complicated items that need to be worked on I can focus my attention on those instead of worrying about prepping the side. I hope you get a chance to try these out during your next nice dinner! Enjoy!