When I'm planning a dinner party, I have several go-to recipes that can be either made or prepped ahead of time. This way, my guests aren't greeted with a sink-full of dishes and I have more time to fuss with my tablescape.
One of my favorite make-ahead foods is Twice-Baked Potatoes. Not only are they something you can make in advance, you can tailor the recipe to fit your guests' tastes or be creative with what you have on hand.
My old standby Twice-Baked Potato is simply to scoop out the insides and then mash them with a little milk, melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Then I bake them again just before serving.
For Father's Day recently, I decided to make a roast beef. The recipe I use is from Russell Chronkite's "A Return to Sunday Dinners." This is by far the best roast beef I've ever had, even if a lesser cut of meat is used, and the gravy is even better. Typically, when I make this dish I will make mashed potatoes (to provide a second vehicle for that yummy gravy!)
This time, however, I opted for a Dad-pleasing Twice-Baked Potato. To serve eight, I bought six superlarge baking potatoes, roasted them, then cut them in half. Inevitably, one or two of the skins will tear or collapse, so this way, I knew with 12 halves, I would get at least eight nice-looking servings. Plus, the extra potato would allow for plenty of filling to heap into the baked skins.
To make the dish more substantial, I decided to add some bacon and garlic. I fried six pieces of bacon until crisp. I also roasted two heads of garlic.
I then kept adding additional ingredients that I thought would work until I had something I was happy with. I had planned to add some grated cheddar cheese to top it all off, but even I knew I was getting to the point of "too much of a good thing."
The final result was a super tasty Twice-Baked Potato that everyone seemed to enjoy.
6 extra-large baking potatoes
6 pieces of bacon, crisply fried and crumbled
2-3 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped into small pieces
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 small heads (or 1 large head) of garlic, roasted
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rub baking potatoes with a little shortening to soften the skins and sprinkle with some coarse salt, then wrap in a square of aluminum foil. Bake for about 1 hour or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool.
Once the potatoes are easy to handle, remove the foil and slice each potato in half lengthwise. If you are lucky, you will have 12 halves. (If not, you can use the torn ones for potato skins. Just top with grated cheddar and some crumbled crisp bacon, then broil until cheese is melted.) Leaving behind about a quarter of an inch, carefully scoop out the cooked potato into a large bowl. Place the empty skins on a foil-lined baking sheet.
To make roasted garlic, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take an entire head of garlic and peel off the outermost papery layers, leaving the last layer on the cloves and keeping the head intact. Slice off about to 1/2 inch from the top and drizzle about two teaspoons of olive oil over the top and sides of the garlic head, then wrap it in aluminum foil.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cloves feel soft when lightly squeezed. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic from the head and stir into the potato mixture.
Add the chives, melted butter, milk, salt, pepper, sour cream and Parmesan cheese to the potato mixture. Blend well with a hand mixer, then stir in the crumbled bacon.
Spoon carefully into the cooked potato shells. If you want to really wow your guests, use a pastry bag fitted with a large rosette tip to fill the shells.
Sprinkle each lightly with a dash of paprika. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.