I HAVE A THING for potatoes. My husband says it’s my Eastern European ancestry, but whatever the reason I can make a meal out of a simple plain baked potato. Better yet, I can make a simple meal special with one of my favorites, the double-stuffed potato. When I was growing up, that meant a roughly mashed potato mixed with butter, cheese and milk and stuffed back into the potato shell. I still see versions of this at deli counters. Not special enough—too big and just kinda plopped in there, sort of like the cousin you didn’t want to invite to dinner: ugly and inelegant. It is just as easy to do a nice job, and yes, with what you already have in the fridge, because here it’s the presentation that upgrades the dish.
To start, roast whole baking potatoes until they are cooked through. Let them cool for about 10 minutes, then scoop out the potato and discard or save the skins for something else. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher; there’s no need to get a smooth mash, leaving the potatoes slightly chunky. Mix with butter, milk, salt, pepper and the cheese and extras of your choice, whatever you have on hand. Now’s the good part: Pull out the ramekins—square ones, custard cups, small Pyrex bowls, whatever you have. Place the potato mixture in a large plastic bag, preferably a freezer one so it’s a little stronger, snip off the corner and now you have a piping bag. Pipe the mixture into the ramekins, top with a little grated cheese. Now for the really good part, you can bake them right away or you can refrigerate for dinner later or the next day. Wait until the potato mixture is cool, top with plastic wrap and stow in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, remove and discard the plastic wrap, place the ramekins on a foil-lined, rimmed sheet pan and place in the oven. Depending on the size of the ramekins, it will take somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes for them to heat up. Easy, right? And you’ve already cleaned up the mess hours before. By the way, I can make a meal out of one of these too.
My favorite combos are below, but make what you’d like. Spinach and feta with dill would be great. Roasted red peppers, onions and Pepper Jack; broccoli and cheddar—you get the idea. Only two rules to follow. One, don’t forget the salt. Two, any vegetables or meats you add to the potato need to be cooked.
Classic: butter, milk, cheddar cheese and scallions. Chopped, cooked bacon optional.
Swiss: butter, milk, Swiss cheese and chopped ham.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
LittleBird “Stephanie Cooks” can make a meal out of just about anything. She used to the the Recipe Editor of the Washington Post.