Recipe-phile: Vikings' win stirs a craving for spuds with bacon, cheese
I had another column in the works but when the Vikings won today - spectacularly - I felt a strong craving for football food, something bold and carnivorous. I confess that I am a fair-weather fan of the game, having just learned the meaning of a blitz this season, but my childhood memories of watching football remain vivid - if pretty well centered on the menu.
It didn't involve either chili or nachos, which is what the food media seems to be pushing as football food lore. Rewriting history, I say. Other people might have had those for their Sunday football fetes, but in Minnesota circa 1980 Tex-Mex influences hadn't yet reached our household, unless you count chili cheese dip.
I remember different things: a still life of crackers, chips, onion dip, beef sticks, fermented dill pickles and pickled herring, perched on a wobbly tv tray. A bowl of wet chunks of fresh kohlrabi sitting next to a saucer of salt. Steak tartare, or small patties of raw ground sirloin topped with chopped onions and a raw egg, ham sandwiches of leftover boiled picnic ham and horseradish cream on soft, eggy dollar buns.
My mother never made potato skins, but around this same time I do remember eating quite a few of them at Chateau Paulette. That's pre-Zhateau, when it was dim and fancier, when bands played on that center stage and dancers orbited in front of them. We sat in our chairs and peered around the shiny log posts to get a view of the band and ate those good potato skins. The crisp edges and bits of bacon together with the soft dollop of sour cream made me finally believe my mother when she said that the potato skin was the best part.
I made mine with Yukon gold potatoes today, which is I think a better-flavored potato than the russet and equally nice for baking. I scooped out the insides, rubbed them with a little oil and baked the shells again until crisp. Then I dropped cooked bits of bacon, raw green onions and cheese into their cavities and popped them under the broiler. I made two versions, aged cheddar and smoked cheddar, and I think that the smoked cheddar edged out the other by a hair.
Fresh from the oven, they were crackling and tasted almost wholesome, although if you added the cheese with a heavier hand you could correct that.
If ever a better dish was invented for sitting on the couch and watching football I'd like to hear about it. Of course you could add other fillings - smoked whitefish salad or ricotta cheese or cooked broccoli and cheddar - but what's the point? To my mind the classic Chateau Paulette version nails the genre.
Potato Skins with Bacon and Smoked Cheddar
5 yukon gold potatoes (1 pound, 11 ounces)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt + to taste
freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces bacon ends (or thick-cut bacon), cut crosswise into thin sticks
3 green onions, cut thinly on the bias
2 ounces smoked cheddar, sliced and crumbled
sour cream, for garnishing
aluminum foil, for roasting
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the potatoes and roll each one in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake until very tender when prodded, about 1 hour.
Let cool slightly, then split the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides, leaving about ¼-inch of potato flesh clinging to the skin. Rub the potato skins inside and out with the canola oil and season the insides with salt and pepper.
Turn the oven up to 425 degrees. Bake the potatoes on a baking sheet until crispy-edged and golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the oven up to broil.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a sauté pan until nearly crisp around the edges.
Pull out the potatoes and divide the bacon and cheese among the potato skins. Broil until the cheese melts and remove. Garnish with the green onion and a dollop of sour cream. Serve immediately.