Recipe: Twice-Baked Mashed Potatoes

Yep, that title is correct. I am asked to make my mashed potatoes for every family get-together because these babies are made from potatoes that are quartered and oven-baked before being mashed. Then they are covered with cheese and baked a second time. As decadent as it sounds, though there are many aspects of this where the chef can control just how unhealthy they want these to be.

There’s actually not much to these, though the effort is very time-consuming and requires a fair amount of elbow grease in the mashing stage.

First, the potatoes. I am not some kind of purist who is going to say you need this or that potato. They’re potatoes and we’re going to bake them and them mash them and then bake them again. This isn’t exactly haute cuisine.

Now, when I say we’re going to bake the potatoes, we’re actually going to oven-fry them, in a sense. Simply quarter the potatoes, and wrap small bundles of them in aluminum foil. The foil bundles need to be open at the top, because we’re going to drizzle a small amount of oil into them.

The result will be potato wedges with fairly crispy edges. Most importantly, do not skin the spuds. I can’t emphasize this enough. The skins mashed into the finished dish will give it an earthiness that compliments the flavor of the burned cut edges.

Put the foil bundles on a cooking sheet and bake at 450 degrees. Don’t ask me if the oven needs to be pre-heated. What, were you expecting the potatoes to rise like bread?!

After an hour, take a toothpick or knife and the potatoes are done if you can easily skewer the potatoes to the bottom of the foil while barely applying any force.

Once baked to sufficient softness, the potatoes will be emptied into a casserole dish or Pyrex bowl or whatever you are going to be baking the final product in.

Now here’s where things may get a bit tricky, since I don’t measure when I cook. I never end up making the exact thing any two times, but nobody has complained about the potatoes so far.

Basically, you need to learn to trust your sense of smell. After all, that is the sense actually used when you taste. And, by smelling instead of tasting, you won’t become acclimated to the taste and end up losing your ability to evaluate how you’re doing.

So I’m going to tell you the ingredients I use and you need to use your judgement for how much (if any) of these to use. Just keep in mind this: you can always add more of a something to a dish, but you can’t take something back out. Always season conservatively at first. You can always add more later. And, if you think a little more might push the taste into an area you don’t want, simply don’t add any more of that ingredient.

As for those ingredients, I use margerine, low-fat sour cream, reduced-fat shedded Mexican cheese blend, garlic powder, onion powder, powdered parmesan cheese and oregano. That’s it.

You’re going to need some amount of margerine and/or sour cream in order to mash the mixture. Even then, I like my potatoes super dry. Some people use milk, but those people are psychopaths and you shouldn’t let them around your children unsupervised. We’re making mashed potatoes here, not a potato-flavored milkshake.

Now it’s time to get in a workout. You’re going to hand-mash the mixture. Don’t even talk to me about using a food processor. We want the resulting dish to be lumpy, clumpy, earthy and dirty. Believe me, your guests will thank you. If they don’t, ask them if they use milk and a food processor when they make mashed potatoes. Have 911 up on your phone and your thumb on the call button, just in case you need to report there are psychopaths in your house.

I find it easiest to mash the potatoes if one repeatedly and randomly thrusts a large knife into the mixture before mashing. Also, anybody watching this spectacle will likely think twice before ever crossing you. Never mess with somebody who will shiv you like a bowl of potatoes.

When your mashed mixture is to your liking, put another layer of cheese on top of it and bake at 350 for about an hour.

That’s it, essentially. This is a simple dish, though it has a fairly significant amount of prepping and cooking time. I find it easiest to bake the potatoes and mash them on one day, put the mixture in the fridge and then bake it covered with cheese the next.