Regular readers of this blog will know by now that my mom doesn’t follow recipes, read cookbooks, or write any of her cooking methods down. That’s most of the reason The Mom Food Project exists, of course: to try to capture those foods of my childhood while mom is still alive to correct my methodology and cheer me on.
As a result of my mother’s little-of-this-little-of-that cooking methods, I mostly don’t cook from recipes, either, and sometimes I will have made something dozens (hundreds?) of times having never seen or wanted a recipe for the thing.
This is the case with twice-baked potatoes, which are not actually a food of my childhood; my mother makes very few foods with the intermediate steps involved in making these. If mom’s going to bake potatoes, she bakes them. If she’s gonna mash them, she mashes them. She sees no need to do both for one meal.
I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that some of our fondest food memories have nothing to do with our childhood, but are remembrances of other times in our lives. When I lived with the hippies, I learned a few foods (I won’t say recipes, because we didn’t use them, either) from my house-mate Trudy that I still make today, and I’m going to try to share a few of them over the next few weeks. When I eat Trudy’s Special Rice, or rice salad, or twice-baked potatoes, I am drawn back in my mind to the times I had in that communal living situation, finding my way as a newly atheist, newly Green, newly so-many-things young woman. And I wish I’d been mature enough to treat those relationships well, way back then. I think that Trudy would have made a really wonderful friend to keep in my life.
Trudy, if you’re out there, I think of you often, and this one’s for you.
A loose recipe
- First of all, don’t sweat it. There’s very little chance you will screw this up. That’s the beauty of it.
- Next, take some amount of potatoes (as many as you want, of any kind/size you want), and scrub them clean, but don’t peel them.
- Pierce the potatoes and bake them (or even microwave them, if you want) until they’re just done. For medium russet potatoes, it’s usually about 45 minutes at 400°F; for other things, play it by ear and check them every once in a while. If they give to gentle pressure, you’re doing okay. If after you cut open the first one, you find that it’s not quite done. let the others sit for a while; they’ll continue cooking, and you can try again in a few minutes.
- Cut each potato in half lengthwise. (Okay, smart aleck: If they’re round, use your judgment.) What I do next is lay the halves in the baking dish I want to use (generally the blue glass baking dish you sometimes see in my photos, which is 13x9x2 inches), and if there are more than will fit, I either give the rest to the Potato Monster (a.k.a. my kid), or I set aside the extras either for later or for extra filling for the twice-baked potatoes. You might also just decide to use a bigger baking dish. My baking dish holds about a dozen half-potatoes. I made seven potatoes and gave the kid the extra one.
- Next, use a small spoon and scoop most of the insides of the potatoes into a mixing bowl. If the potatoes are too hot to handle, use tongs or a potholder, or hey, wait a bit, if you have more patience than I do.
For the filling, mash the potatoes with a fork, along with any combination of the following:
- Cheese (any kind: for these, I used jack and parmesan)
- Something oniony (I use either onions or scallions; Trudy always, it seems, used scallions; today, I used finely minced red onions)
- Parsley (without parsley, as these are today, it’s not quite Trudy’s potatoes, I find)
- Garlic if you want (minced, roasted, whatever)
- Salt and pepper
- Anything else you like in/on potatoes: sour cream, bacon, whatever
- Fill each half with filling roughly evenly. Some people like to top these with more cheese before baking, but I don’t. Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes, or until they look yummy. Remove and serve.
These freeze well, either before or after baking. I think next time I do them, I’ll bake twice or three times as many as I need, and sock some away for later. Not exactly summer food, but might be nice to have on hand anyway.