There are a few things that I consider myself good at cooking, in the kitchen. I make my own BBQ sauces, I do a really good Risotto (asparagus and mushroom), an assortment of breakfast items, some Chicken Enchilada soup….and this. These baked potatoes stand by themselves as dinner, when I make them, and are a family favorite.
- 8 large russet potatoes
- 2 cups sharp cheddar
- 8oz of “better” cheese – in this case, and aged Irish cheddar, imported
- 1 Bunch of Kale
- 4 strips of thick-cut bacon
- 6 cloves garlic
- Two onions (despite the picture), one large and sweet and the other smaller and plain yellow
- 3/4 cup Sour Cream
- 3 Tbs Butter
- 10 oz of a good Stout or strong Porter
First, clean, ventilate (3 pokes/side with strong fork), coat in olive oil, sprinkle kosher salt on the skin, then put the potatoes in a 400-degree oven, setting the timer for 30 minutes. At the end of that, you will flip them over, then go another 30 minutes. You’ll be busy, while they cook, so I wanted to get this out, now. Cook them directly in the upper rack, 2/3 up in the oven, with the lower rack almost covered with foil, to catch any dripping that might happen.
While those bake, break down the bacon into 1/4″ cubes, the onions into 1/8″ slices, the garlic should be crushed then finely minced, and the kale should have all main stems removed then the leaves rolled up and cut using the chiffonade technique, also roughly 1/4″ wide. Keep the ingredients in their own bowls, for now. It will look like a lot of Kale, but the final product will not have so much volume.
Put a large pot over medium heat, then drop in the spread out the bacon. Let is cook down until each piece is 3/4 done – almost brown and crispy. Once you hit this point, in go the onions, with a health pinch of kosher salt. Seems like a lot, but remember; potatoes are salt-starved.
Over medium, or maybe knock it down to medium-low heat, let the onions sweat, then caramelize, with occasional stirring and spreading back out. Yes, caramelize in the bacon fat. You may get a napkin, now, to mop the saliva from the corners of your mouth.
It usually takes my stove a solid 15 minutes, at least, to get all of the onions a medium brown. At this point, I lower the heat to low, and stir in the minced garlic. Controlling your heat so that the onions and garlic do not burn, let this cook down until 5 minutes before the potatoes are fully cooked. At that point, crank the heat to high, and stir continuously to prevent burning. When the pot starts to really start to sizzle, toss in all of the kale, and continue to stir, continuously. When the kale turns a deeper green, but just before it begins to wilt, open and pour in the Stout/Porter you have selected.
For this batch, almost a whole can of Irish Death, an excellent brew from Iron Horse Brewery.
Stir slowly, making sure to de-glaze the bottom of the pot, incorporating any semi-burnt residue that may have accumulated, there. When the kale has wilted and become wet ribbons of green in the mix, take it all off the heat and pour it into a large bowl. This step usually takes only 2-3 minutes, at most, depending on your stove. With gas, maybe even just a minute. Cover with foil, after tossing in the butter and sour cream.
Now, retrieve the potatoes, laying them out on a large baking pan. Cut each on in half, lengthwise, leaving two almost identical halves. Scoop out the whites of each one, depositing it into the bowl with the kale mixture. When all have been cleaned down to the potato skins, begin mashing the contents of the bowl, while adding the 2 cups of sharp cheddar. Mash until it is a smooth, tan mass, with green ribbons. When you get it all even in consistency, spoon it back into the potato skins, heaping it above the edges, but leveling it off with the spoon. Onto each, a pinch of the better cheese is added…sometimes a large pinch.
When done, it goes into the oven and turn the Broiler to high. Cook until the cheese on top melts…then bubbles…then browns.
Then…serve. Beginning to end can be as much as 90 minutes, so if you intend to use this as a side, plan accordingly.
Oh, and the item on the paper towel, in bottom-right of the featured picture, is my whole wheat beer bread. Strong and hearty taste, with a bite of spice…but that’s for another post…