I lived alone with my dad for my pretty formative high-school years. He was single at the time, meeting the woman who would become my stepmom three years after I moved in with him. Before that moment, though, it was just the two of us. Why he wanted to be the single father of a pre-teen girl I will never know, but that was his choice and I had little say in the matter. One Friday he picked me up from New Orleans, where I lived with my Mom, and that was it. He was officially a single dad. There were a few interesting things that came to pass because of our arrangement. For instance, he didn’t take me shopping (I have no idea how I was ever clothed). I didn’t have my hair “done” for prom. I didn’t borrow his makeup. I never ruined his favorite blouse and he never caught me digging in his purse. Instead I learned to drive on a tractor, I could change my oil and tires and I developed the annoying habit of taking a very male approach to conversations. All it takes is a friend whispering a negative word and I’m done listening and I’m into problem solving mode. Don’t like your kid’s school? Transfer. Unhappy with your job? Quit. Need to lose weight? Eat less and do more. Even my husband has to tell me to stop sometimes – “Just listen,” he pleads. “I don’t need a solution, I just need to complain for a bit.” An anathema to me but I do.
Another holdover from our life together was that I developed a healthy love of red meat and simple dinners. The backbone of male dining. One meat. One vegetable. One starch. Unless there was a combination possible, for instance we at a lot of steak and baked potato because potatoes count as both a starch and a vegetable. (For what it’s worth spaghetti bolognese also qualifies as a starch + protein + veggie meal. We ate a lot of that too.)
When my dad met the woman who would become my stepmom she was sensitive to our routine and my dad’s dining style, but she was also an incredible cook. She was able to up the ante on our frequent steak and potato dinners with a very simple addition: Stuffed potatoes. Genius. Everything we loved in baked potatoes – sour cream, green onions, butter, cheese – all mashed together and stuffed back into the potato and baked with a top layer of ooey gooey cheese! Every so often a Saturday would roll around and she would bake a dozen potatoes, then she would scoop out the insides, mix them up with all of the goodies she could find, and stuff them back into the potato skins. She would freeze what we were not planning to eat that night so that on the occasion we knew we would be having steak for dinner all we had to do was pop one out of the freezer that morning and it was ready to go into the oven when we returned home from school.
On those evenings my dad and I would get home before her, he would “light the pit” and I would stick the potatoes in the oven. She arrived home just around the time dinner was ready, and we would all sit around and probably wonder a bit whose idea this random combo of personalities was. In the meantime we would discuss our days, complain a bit and do some problem solving while we oooh-d and ahhh-d over the perfectly cooked steaks and potatoes.
- 4 baking potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup (8 fluid oz) sour cream
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup grated white or English cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup green onions, the light green part, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese for topping
- Preheat oven to 425 F / 218 C.
- Wash and dry each potato and place on a baking sheet. Rub a thin layer of olive oil on each potato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pierce each potato about 6 times with the tines of a fork. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Remove from oven and let cool. Turn oven down to 350 F / 175 C.
- Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop the insides into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Preserve 4 of the hollowed out skins, discarding the other 4 (or cut them into quarters, sprinkle them with cheese, bacon bits and green onions and bake for 15 minutes for a quick snack).
- Add cheese, milk, butter, sour cream, green onions, salt and pepper to the mixer and blend for 30-60 seconds. You want everything to be well incorporated but not completely mashed.
- Evenly divide the potato mixture by four and scoop back into the four preserved potato halves pressing just lightly to make it stay in the potato. The result should be a potato half for the bottom with a rounded top.
- Divide the remaining shredded cheese into four and press onto the top of the potatoes.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the potatoes are warm through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- If you want to freeze them do everything the same but after topping them with the shredded cheese, wrap them well in cling film and then freeze them for up to a month. Then take them out of the freezer, let them thaw completely and then bake at 350 F / 175 C for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Also - you can throw loads of other things in this recipe. I like mine sort of simple but you can add bacon bits, chopped turkey, sauteed mushrooms, sausage....anything that strikes your fancy in order to make this a full meal all by itself. No steak needed!