January 4, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Twice Baked Potatoes

Happy 2015! How were your holidays? I got sick just in time for Santa to arrive. I wasn't feeling especially great when I was leaving my uncle's house on Christmas Eve, but I figured I ate too much. When I got home, it was a different story, and after I was, erm, finished, I looked at the clock and saw that it was just after midnight. My only thought was, "Gee, thanks, Santa!"

I'm still not sure what that was all about. It wasn't a stomach virus, nobody else got sick, so it couldn't have been food poisoning. Maybe since I didn't put up a stocking, that was Santa's creative alternative to coal?

It wasn't all bad, though. I did get a slow cooker and a rice cooker (I have this block against cooking rice. I can make a risotto, but I can't make rice. Does this make sense to anyone?), so basically I have a ton of appliances that help me avoid using my stove. Yay!

The parentals also bought me a new TV, since all I had was my little 17 inch one, which served me fine in the past, but since my living room is actually pretty big, it looked kind of sad and tiny (also, the sound was starting to go wonky, and it didn't have an HDMI port for my blu-ray player. It was time). It's a smart tv, so I've been fascinated by the fact that I can watch Netflix on something other than my Kindle. It's the little things in life.
Anywhozzle, I've totally had this potato craving lately, which made me realize: I don't think I've ever made a potato dish. Like, ever. I mean, I've made baked potatoes (mostly in the microwave, because I'm usually just making one for me), and I've put potatoes in soups and things and on my Italian Hot Dogs, but just potatoes? Nope.

Well, thinking about it now, I have made potato salad and roasted potatoes, and I made a potato nacho thinger where I sliced up a potato and pan fried it and smothered it with cheese and bacon and baked it. But I had to really think about it, so they totally don't count.

And that's totally crazysauce because I love potatoes. I love all things potato. Potato chips and french fries and mashed potatoes and potato croquettes and potato salad and my Aunt Sophie's potato pie. Potatoes are awesome.

So one night, I was making a baked potato in the microwave for dinner, like you do, and I suddenly decided I was going to put buffalo sauce on it instead of butter, and it was like a revelation. I was in love with the combination of potato and buffalo sauce, so the idea stuck me: what about buffalo chicken twice baked potatoes?
Now, I'd never actually had twice baked potatoes, but I liked the idea of them. You take baked potatoes, scoop out the insides, mash them up and mix them with yummy good stuff like sour cream and cheese, put it back in the potato skins and bake it back up until the cheese is all melty-gooey. What's not to like? I figure I'd just add some hot sauce, some diced red onions, peppers, and celery, a little cilantro and chives, top with some chicken, et voila, buffalo chicken twice baked potatoes.

And you guys, it's like baked potatoes meet mashed potatoes meet potato salad meet buffalo wings. It's epic. And while it sounds fussy and hard, it's really not. It takes a while, but that's mostly because the potatoes take a while for the first baking. I really like that I can do all the prep while the potatoes are in the oven. You'd have to wait anyway, so it gives you something to do while waiting. Since I hate waiting, that's a plus.

You could totally make these ahead, just follow the steps up until the second baking, cover and put in the fridge. When you're ready to serve, just pop them back in the oven for the second baking. The skins won't be as crisp, but it will still be yummy.
I love that these are super versatile too. Serve one potato half as an appetizer, or two potato halves as a meal. You can eat them with a knife and fork or pick them up with your fingers. You could even skip the chicken if you want, or use premade chicken strips from the grocery store. My original intention was to make shredded chicken and mix it in with the potatoes, but I make a lot of shredded chicken and wanted to try something different. That's always an option if you want a less saucy and messy finger food. You could totally just eat the filling and not put it back in the potato skins, which I had to stop myself from doing.
Twice baked potatoes. You need them in your life.

Buffalo Chicken Twice Baked Potatoes
Yield: 8 potato halves

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried*
olive oil
salt (optional)
1 chicken breast, cut into strips
1 tbsp ranch seasoning (I used this mix, minus the dill)
2 tbsp. prepared buffalo sauce**
1/3 cup sour cream
2-4 tbsp. hot sauce
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
About 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Prick the potatoes a few times on all sides with a fork. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, if using. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat about 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and ranch seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost cooked through. Add the buffalo sauce, and continue to cook until the chicken is done. Set aside.

When the potatoes are done, use a sharp knife to cut them into halves, being careful not to tear the skin. (use a clean dish towel to hold the potatoes, since they will be very hot) Use a spoon to scoop out the inside into a bowl, leaving about a quarter inch in the skin to keep its shape. Use a handheld potato masher to mash the potatoes. Mix in the sour cream, butter, and your desired amount of hot sauce. Mix in the diced vegetables.

Divide the filling equally between the empty potato skins. Sprinkle liberally with shredded cheddar, and bake about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with the cooked chicken in buffalo sauce, drizzle more buffalo sauce on top, if desired, and serve immediately.

Note: If you prefer softer veggies, you can saute them with the chicken

*My potatoes were kind of on the small side, so I used the 4 biggest I had plus one small one
**You can make your own buffalo sauce using 2 parts hot sauce to 1 part melted butter

Recipe by Kim