Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Make a meal with stuffed potatoes.

Somewhere along the eating time-line the common potato, that underground denizen, hard-to-clean, difficult-to-categorize potato, became a vegetable, and an important one besides. You’d think it would be classified a starchy carbohydrate, like wheat grains and oats, rice and sorghum. And, of course, it is, indeed a carbohydrate full of starch.

But potatoes earned a special place in our cooking repertoire not just because their production saved an entire country (a bit of an exaggeration but in the 1700 and 1800 era in Ireland, potatoes saved farms and provided food during famine.) They are a healthy plate side and a filling one.

So, here are three stuffed recipes to invoke St. Patrick’s Day, should you wish to, and to savor as either a starch on the plate or a vegetable (many of which are actually heavy with starch, anyway. Peas or beans, anyone?). The stuffed potato brings all the goodness of the potato up a notch from mashed or fried, to deliciously satisfying and pleasing for family and guests. And they make a cheap meal on their own or addition to a meal as a side dish.

A Note: Baking potatoes are usually the brown, and larger, variety. You can use red potatoes or even baby potatoes, which have a thinner skin, but adjust baking time downward. You might want to check more frequently for doneness.

CLASSIC TWICE-BAKED STUFFED POTATO

Creamy, tasty, everybody’s favorite

4 medium baking potatoes

4 Tbls butter, softened

2 tablespoon 2% milk

1/2 tsp salt

6 oz cream cheese, cubed

4 Tbls sour cream

Paprika

Minced fresh parsley and green onions, optional

Preheat oven to 350°. Pierce potatoes and bake on a baking sheet until tender, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, cut a thin slice off the top of each potato and discard. With a spoon or fork, carefully scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. This will take less time than you think because the potato pulp is soft from cooking.

In a medium bowl, mash the pulp with butter, milk and salt. Stir in cream cheese and sour cream. Spoon into potato shells. Sprinkle with paprika.

Place on a baking pan and bake, at 350, uncovered, until heated through and tops are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with parsley and green onions. As desired, offer butter, sour cream and shredded cheese on the side. Makes four servings. Can be a meal or side dish or, accompanied by a meat portion, the main dish.

CHICKEN AND CHEESE STUFFED POTATO

A whole meal in just half a potato

4 medium potatoes

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 a chicken breast, cut in small pieces

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp nutmeg, optional, but recommended

1 C grated Cheddar cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F. Scrub potatoes and pierce them on all sides with a fork. Transfer to a baking sheet. Brush or spray the potatoes with olive oil and bake for 40-45 minutes or until tender when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. In a large frying pan heat oil or butter over medium high heat. Saute the onion with the garlic for about 5 minutes until soft. Add red pepper and chicken pieces and cook until meat is cooked through. Stir in fresh parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper and remove from heat.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop the interior out of each leaving about 1/4 inch shell of potato flesh and skin. Mash scooped potato slightly in a bowl, then add to the cooked chicken mixture, and stir to incorporate.

Raise oven heat to 480°. Fill the potato shells with the potato and chicken filling and place them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle to taste with the cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the potato stuffing turns golden brown. Serve hot with butter, your choice of dipping sauce, or sour cream. Complete the meal with a fresh salad or cooked vegetables. Makes eight servings.

SOUTHWEST STUFFED SWEET POTATOES

Add some heat to the sweet for a hearty vegan treat

4 medium sweet potatoes (8 to 9 oz each)

1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and diced 

1 1/2 tsp lime juice

2 Tbls chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbls vegetable oil

1/2 C chopped onion

1 medium poblano chile, seeded and chopped (about 1/2 C)

1/2 C chopped red or orange bell pepper

1/2 C chopped grape tomatoes 

1 C black beans, drained, rinsed (from 15-oz can)

2 tsp taco seasoning mix (from 1-oz package)

2 Tbls water

Heat oven to 425°F. Prick sweet potatoes on all sides with fork and place on 15x10x1-inch pan. Leave an inch or so of room between them. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced in the center with a fork.

While potatoes are baking, use a small bowl to mix avocado, 1/2 tsp of the lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro and 1/8 tsp of the salt. Mash with a fork to a chunky consistency. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The mix will top the stuffed potatoes.

Next, in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, poblano chile, bell pepper and tomatoes. Cook 5 to 6 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and other vegetables are crispy-tender. Add beans, taco seasoning mix, remaining 1/8 tsp salt, remaining 1 tsp lime juice and the water. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes or until completely heated through and slightly thickened.

When potatoes are done baking, carefully split the hot potatoes open. Divide the bean and veggie mixture among the potatoes. They will be very full but you can use a spoon to carve a channel in each potato half before adding the mixture, to sort of anchor the stuffing. Mound the channeled potato pulp to create a holding area. Top stuffed potatoes with avocado mixture and garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon of cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Tip: You can “heat up” the potato by adding jalapenos, diced, to the bean and vegetable mix. Your favorite hot sauce can be served on the side. Note: To prepare this meal ahead, bake potatoes, let cool, and refrigerate until time to serve. Make stuffing and avocado mixture and cover well before refrigerating. Reheat potatoes to steaming in microwave and then warm up the bean mixture while the potatoes cool a bit. Proceed with recipe and serve.

By Jean Redstone

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