It’s a public secret I like to use a lot of fresh herbs when I’m cooking. It’s just so easy to spike up your everyday cooking with some fresh herbs—especially when you grow them yourself. I’m always trying new and different combinations. That’s how I found out what an absolutely fantastic herb basil is. And not just in pasta sauces or salads. Basil and potatoes, for instance, go really well together. The peppery basil flavor and the more laid back flavor of baked potatoes are a fantastic combination.
3 potatoes (8 oz each)
1 large shallot
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup cream (I’ve used low fat)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
I’m using 1 large potato per person. Mine were about 8oz each. Russet potatoes would be a really good choice for this.
Give them a really, really good scrub. Pinch them a few times with a fork. Just dig your fork in there, about 6 to 7 times will do. Then pat them dry.
Lightly brush the potatoes with olive oil.
And sprinkle a generous amount of salt on top. I always use sea-salt, but lots of people prefer kosher salt. Whatever makes you happy.
I’ve put some baking paper on a baking sheet and placed the potatoes on top with the oiled side down. Repeat the oiling/seasoning process on the other side of the potatoes. Sure, you can oil and season both sides at once, but this looked so much better in my photos! It’s all about the photos here, sorry.
Bake them at 400F (200C) for about an hour.
After I sat down, drank coffee and read sleazy tabloids for about half an hour, it was time to get back to work. The life of a food blogger sure ain’t easy!
Chop a fairly large shallot or half a small onion.
And grate or mince 2 medium sized garlic cloves.
Heat a teeny-tiny drop of oil and sautee the shallots, over low heat, for about 3 minutes. Add the grated garlic and cook everything for an additional 2 minutes.
Pour in half a cup of cream—I’ve used a low fat version—and 1/3 cup of vegetable broth. Chicken broth will be fine as well.
Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer, over low heat, for about 10 minutes. Until it has cooked down a fair bit.
In the mean time you can wash and finely chop a good handful of basil. I’ve also cut a lemon in half.
Keep an eye on the sauce and stir occasionally.
After 10 minutes you turn off the heat. Season the sauce with a really good pinch of pepper and salt. Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice to taste and stir in the basil. Set the sauce aside.
Time to check on the potatoes. If you do this often enough you’ll be able to tell, by just looking at them or pressing them, whether they’re done or not. If you want to be really sure, use a (meat) thermometer; as soon as the core temperature of the potatoes reaches about 210F (100C) you can declare them done.
Tip: don’t wrap them in foil. This won’t bake them, this will steam them. You only get a really nice crunchy skin when you bake them uncovered.
Cut the potatoes in half (lengthwise) while they’re still hot. I have reasonably fireproof hands, but you can use tongs to hold down the potatoes as well.
Scoop the innards out. I like saying innards, not sure why, but it sure sounds better than guts. Unfortunately I also like to say guts. How I love the English language.
Make sure you leave a thin potato layer in the shell.
Add the sauce—which will have cooled off and thickened by now—to the potatoes. Lightly mash it with a fork and check the seasoning. Also stir in a really good handful of pine nuts; this will do amazing things to the flavor and it creates a great difference in texture.
Fill the potato shells and sprinkle some Parmesan on each potato. Put them back in a really hot oven for about 10 minutes, and serve them straight from the oven.
These are good. These are crazy good. I served with them a nice grilled pepper steak and a salad on the side but really, they pair with just about anything you can think of. And then some.