Twice baked and smothered potatoes

Potatoes are a versatile root vegetable. They can be eaten alone and in so many ways: mashed, boiled, fried, steamed, baked, au gratin, get the idea.
They can also be combined with other vegetables for a medley or with a protein (beef, chicken, pork) in a stew or casserole.
Twice baked potatoes usually have some mixture of cheese, maybe a meat, like bacon, even vegetables added.
The difference between twice baked potatoes and potato skins? Twice baked are just that; baked potatoes, insides scooped out, combined with other ingredients, returned to the skins and baked again.
The potatoes used tend to be on the large size, since this is basically a complete meal being created. Russet potatoes are the best to use as they are low in moisture and high in starch. This allows for the baked potato to have a fluffy inside, and crispy skin.
Potato skins, on the other hand, are similar as Russets (smaller sized) are still the best to use, and the potatoes are baked, but with a content difference.
Considered a snack or appetizer, the potatoes are halved before baking, hollowed out, ingredients added (usually cheese, bacon and green onions) and then baked before serving.
Add a dollop of sour cream on top, the perfect “finger food”; oh, and the potato centers that were removed probably end up as mashed later on.
The” baked potato” was not popularized in the United States until 1908, and potatoes in general did not show up in Idaho until the 1800s.
Before colonizing the states, explorers discovered potatoes in South America, brought them back to Europe, and eventually to North America in the 1600s.
In 1908, the building of the Northern Pacific Railway system finally reached Idaho. Laborers worked long, back breaking hours, and needed foods that would keep them energized for those long hours.
The potato was perfect for this. Easily stored inside a pocket, easily held by hand, and thrown on coals, or wood fires, would cook up quickly; hence the baked potato, in Idaho, was born.
The skin of the potato is called a “jacket” in England, so if you hear the term “jacketed potatoes”, it simply means the skin is left on.
Actually, the skin of the potato contains more nutritional value than the insides. They are full of potassium, magnesium and fiber.
Balancing out the sodium in your body, with potassium, is necessary to keep healthy blood pressure, and preventing heart attack or stroke. So, when making potatoes in any fashion, make sure to have a good portion of skin included.
I have not tried making twice baked potatoes from scratch before. I have, though, purchased the ones sold in the freezer section of the supermarket, and they are usually pretty disgusting; no matter the brand.
The skins are tough and the insides are dry and tasteless. So, challenge accepted and believe this is a prize worthy recipe.
Oh, the reference to “smothered” is simply stating that these potatoes are chock full of additional goodies to make it a definitively complete meal.
Twice Baked Smothered Potatoes
4 large baking potatoes (Russet are best), 2 Tbsp. butter, ¼ cup each diced green and red bell peppers, diced onions, 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, 3 Tbsp. each sour cream and warmed milk, 1 cup cheese mixture (equal parts shredded cheddar and Swiss, and crumbled goat cheese), ½ tsp. each salt and ground black pepper, ¼ cup crumbled bacon, Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 450F. Wash potatoes; make ¼” deep incision down center length of each potato, wrap in aluminum foil and bake in oven for one hour. Remove potatoes and let cool until they can be easily handled, but are still warm.
While potatoes are cooling, melt butter, on medium heat, in small skillet; sauté bell peppers, onion and garlic until just beginning to soften; set aside.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise (use ¼” incision as a guide); scoop out insides, but leave a ¼” layer against the skin. Place potato insides in a large bowl; add in sautéed vegetables and other ingredients.
Mix together thoroughly; mixture will be chunky; if a smoother filling is desired, mash the insides with the sour cream and warmed milk first, then add remaining ingredients.
Fill the potato skins and place in a 3-quart baking dish; place back in 450F oven for 15-20 minutes; until tops are browned.
Makes 8 servings.
Option: To make a satisfying side dish, spoon mixture into buttered 2-quart baking dish, bake as instructed and serve.
The skins? Well, you could always serve them as an appetizer.

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