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Twice-baked potatoes flavorful without cheese

By Betty Shimabukuro

LAST UPDATED: 2:51 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2010

Dorothy Nakazawa is planning a prime rib dinner for 15 on Christmas (how can we get invited to her house, I wonder?) and would like to serve an accompaniment of twice-baked potatoes.

This is a time-honored dish that involves baking potatoes, then scooping out the flesh, mashing it into a filling, stuffing it back into the potato shells and re-baking to get a nice toasty top. The catch is, almost every recipe for this hearty side dish includes cheese, and Nakazawa wants to make them without. She's looking for a lighter version.

I went through dozens of recipes -- all except one were made with cheese, and that one had cream cheese. A few labeled as "healthy" used low-fat cheese, which I consider a waste of time. It seems that the whole point is richness -- otherwise you may as well serve a plain baked potato, right?

Here is my suggestion: roasted garlic. Put a whole head in the oven when you bake the potatoes, then squeeze all of it into the mashed potato filling. I also snuck in some bacon. If you do this you can leave out the butter, plus substitute nonfat milk and nonfat sour cream (or plain yogurt), and you'll still have a tasty potato, if not quite as decadent.

This recipe is the full-fat version, because it was so delicious, with substitutions for those who want to lighten up.

These potatoes are actually baked three times, a tip I picked up from Cook's Illustrated. After the first baking, and after the insides are scooped out, the empty shells go into the oven briefly to crisp them up. This keeps them from getting soggy and tough after they're filled.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

8 russet potatoes (6 to 8 ounces each)
1 head garlic
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
2 slices bacon, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups chopped button mushrooms (for deeper flavor use crimini mushrooms)
2 tablespoons butter (leave out for lighter version)
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/2 cup half-and-half (or nonfat milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes. Cut about 1/2 inch off top of garlic head. Pour olive oil over garlic and wrap head in foil.

Place potatoes and garlic on sheet pan and roast 1 hour or until potatoes are easily pierced with fork.

Saute bacon in skillet until cooked through. Add onion and mushrooms, cooking until mushrooms are beginning to brown. Remove from heat.

Cut baked potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop flesh from each half, leaving about 1/4 inch all around. Return potato shells to oven, cut side up, for about 10 minutes, until they begin to crisp. Remove from oven and turn on broiler.

Meanwhile, mash potato flesh, stirring in butter, sour cream and half-and-half until smooth. Add more half-and-half if needed. Stir in mushroom mixture. Mound filling in potato shells. Place under broiler for about 10 minutes, until top is starting to brown.

Approximate nutritional information, per potato half (based on 8 ounce potatoes): 180 calories, 6 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 5 g protein

Approximate nutritional information, per potato half (using skim milk and low-fat plain yogurt): 170 calories, 4 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 5 g protein

Slow-cooker suggestion: If your oven is busy, as Nakazawa's might be on Christmas Day, try roasting the potatoes in a slow cooker. You can fit up to 10, depending on size, in a 6-quart cooker. Just pile them in there (don't add water), turn it on low and go away for about 10 hours. The garlic will fit, too. If you're compulsive you can open the cooker halfway through and move the potatoes around.

You could also microwave the potatoes for the first "bake," although to make eight you'll have to work in two batches. Either way you'll still need to use your oven to brown the filled potato halves.


Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. E-mail

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