Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Baby Madison Dinner

Two days after Christmas, while in New Jersey visiting for the holidays, my friends Jen and Bill had a baby girl. Little Madison was two months early, and will be in the hospital for a little while, to grow, but even though she's tiny, she is doing well.

Jen is staying in New Jersey, with her in-laws, until she can bring Madison home. Unfortunately, Bill had to come home to Baltimore yesterday, to check in with work. Knowing that he had very little food in the house, and wanting to hear all about Madison from him in person, Cooper and I had him over for dinner.

It was an easy dinner - very Barefoot in it's simplicity. We ate grilled London Broil, marinated in Worcesteshire sauce and a salt and herb rub:

london broil
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Cooper did a great job with the meat - I think he felt vindicated after his overcooking trauma on New Year's Eve. Pretending to be healthy, I made a whole bunch of roasted vegetables - carrots, fennel, onions and garlic - tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme:

roasted vegetables
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

The vegetables were sweet and a tiny, tiny bit crunchy and full of flavor. It's possible that I cooked most of the nutrients out of them. But they tasted fantastic.

And, finally, I made twice-baked potatoes:

twice-baked potatoes
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Twice-baked potatoes were one of my early victories. In my first months of cooking, I made them all the time - sans recipe. In fact, they might have been my first experiment with cooking by instinct alone. They're a consistent hit - and should be, considering the health factor. Between the bacon, butter and cheese I throw in these things, they're practically a heart attack on a plate. Perfect for a homecoming meal in the middle of winter. Here's the recipe (roughly):

(serves 4-6)

4 Russet potatoes, as evenly oval as possible
One package bacon
2-3 tbls. butter, softened and cut into pieces
3-4 tbls. sour cream (I use lowfat - because I am very health-conscious, obviously)
2 tbls. heavy cream
Lots of shredded cheddar cheese (2 cups, maybe)

Preheat oven to 400. Thoroughly wash potatoes, then place in oven. I bake them for just over an hour - until they prick easily with a fork, but are still a tiny bit firm.

While the potatoes are baking, fry the ENTIRE PACKAGE of bacon. Feel free to snack on two to four pieces while you cook the rest of your dinner. Consider it an amuse-bouche. I guess you could save those pieces for another day...but why bother? Your house will smell so good at this's unlikely that you'll be able to resist.

Once the potatoes are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 10-15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350. Once cool enough to handle (but not cold), cut each in half, evenly, lengthwise. Scoop out the inside of each half - it should be fluffy - placing what you scoop into a bowl. Place the empty skins on a cookie sheet.

Using a potato masher or fork (or, if you're like me, an avocado masher), mash up the baked potato. Mash in the butter, sour cream and heavy cream. Fold in the chives (as many as you like - I used nearly half a spice jar - fresh chives are also nice if it's the right time of year) and a small handful of cheese. Break the bacon into small, bite-sized pieces and fold in.

Spoon the potato mixture back into the skins, smoothing on top. Top each potato with a smattering of cheese. Place back in the oven for 10-20 minutes, depending on how cool they've gotten. You want them to heat through completely, and all the cheese to melt.

So bad for you...yet so, so good.

And certainly enough to fatten up even the tiniest perfect for new moms.

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