In my never ending quest to expose my children to the culinary benefits of foods that touch each other, I fired up the ol’ brain cells to concoct something so terrific that even the pickiest of pickies would at least try a nibble of. Was I successful? Did we experience a breakthrough? Houston ... Did we solve a problem?
My picky eater fan club members like potatoes. They like cheese. Actually, they luuuv cheese a lot. They will also choke down plain old, don’t jazz it up, taco meat. Soooo .... why not put them together? Just this once, why not let those three items cohabitate and create Nacho Potato Skins!
I realized that I hadn’t made potato skins since, well, let’s just say it was back when Pluto was still solidly considered a planet. Still, how hard could it be? Not hard at all, is the answer. A quick internet search provided me with basic instructions. First you bake the potato, then you slice and scoop the potato, then you alternately broil and stuff and broil the potato again.
I’m not super familiar with the broiler; we’re more like acquaintances. My friend, Marjie, is a pro at the broiler. (Have you met Marjie yet? I adore Marjie. Go take a quick visit; we’ll wait. Be sure to tell her Paula said “hi”.) Having read Marjie’s broiling instructions for a while now, I figured that the time had arrived to advance my relationship with said broiler from acquaintances to friends. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s review the recipe first.
Nacho Potato Skins
Russet potatoes – one or two per person
½ cup melted butter
1 ½ lbs. of cojack cheese – shred it yourself!
1 ½ lbs ground beef
taco seasoning (I used gluten free)
chopped green onions
chopped cilantro (hi Pam!)
Preheat oven to 350. Wash potatoes, prick each one 3 times with a knife, place whole potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for about 1 hour or until baked through.
In the meantime, shred the cheese. Yes, please shred it and don’t buy the prepacked shredded stuff. I timed myself, and it took me not even 2 minutes to shred the cheese, including interruptions. The cheese you shred yourself melts sooooo much better than the packaged stuff. After shredding your cheese, go ahead and prepare your garnishes.
Prepare the taco meat using your favorite recipe. I used a package spice mix and substituted chicken broth in place of the water. I like chicken broth. A lot. Do you ever substitute chicken broth for water? I do. A lot. Have I said “a lot” enough in this post?
When the potatoes are finished baking, let cool slightly and slice each one in half. Even after letting them cool, they will still be tarzan hot. If you have asbestos fingers like me, you’ll be okay. Otherwise, use a hand towel to hold the potato and protect your fingers. (Have you ever seen those commercials for the OvGlove? I thought about that product as I was playing hot potato.)
Preheat your broiler. Using a small sized melon baler or teaspoon, hollow out each potato half, leaving about a ¼ inch of flesh. You’ll end up with lots of potato “pulp”. Save it for mashed potatoes or other uses. Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of the hulled potato with butter and sprinkle with season salt. Turn the potatoes cut side down, and coat the outside with butter, too. If you see a stray bit of potato, absolutely nab it and do a taste test. Place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes. Remove, turn cut side up and return to the broiler for 3-4 minutes. Remove, and fill the shells with lots of cheese. Be generous. It’s cheese. It’s yummy. Pile it on. Oh, and don’t worry if you need to sneak a shred or two for a taste test. It’s okay, I won’t judge you. Top that with a couple spoonfuls of meat, and then crown it with another mountain of cheese. Then it’s back under the broiler for about 3 minutes or until melted and bubbly. I love melted and bubbly cheese. Oh, if you’re like me and discover that some cheese went onto the tray as you were filling the shells, you are in for a treat! Look at it now. All melty with no where to go. Hmmm ... just a quick tasty sample. Oh, here’s one with some stray meat. Better not let it go to waste.
Ahem. Alrighty. Now it’s time to plate your potatoes. They will be really hot, so take care when transporting them from baking tray to plate. Top with your favorite garnishes, and dive right it. I prefer the fork and knife method. My children, however, had ideas of their own.
Couple notes: You could easily substitute other fillings and meat. Bacon, of course, comes to mind. You could use chicken or steak or pork even. My kids ate theirs sans garnishes. I think these would make a lovely fancy breakfast being stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, and cheese. And absolutely, you can use left over baked potatoes. In fact, next time I make baked potatoes, I’ll throw in a couple extra just to use for later. Oh, and this is gluten free, all the way, baby!