Stuffed and baked – the way potatoes ought to be | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Stuffed and baked – the way potatoes ought to be

J.M. Hirsch / The Associated Press

Larry Crowe / The Associated Press Chili-Stuffed Potato Skins can be a fun, tasty and quick addition to the weeknight dinner table.

Sometimes, dinner just needs to be shamelessly sloppy.

Nachos are a good example. If you don’t pile them so high with beans and salsa and vegetables and olives and cheese and sour cream and guacamole that you need to eat them with a fork, you just aren’t trying.

It was that blueprint for nachos that served as the inspiration for these over-the-top stuffed potato skins.

Though potato skins are fine as an appetizer or side, I wanted a version substantial enough to stand alone as a meal. And once you start adding nacholike goodness to a baked potato, it’s hard to stop piling on.

To keep these stuffed skins weeknight-friendly, the potatoes are “baked” in the microwave, then given a quick crisp in the oven to help melt the cheese in the mashed-potato-like topping.

To save even more time, you could use a purchased chili instead of the lusciously creamy and spicy version created as part of this recipe (but it really is worth the extra effort).

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And if you want a healthier version, large sweet potatoes could be used instead of white potatoes.

This recipe makes enough for a crowd, but the potatoes also reheat well.

Preparation time, start to finish: 45 minutes (30 minutes active). Makes 8 servings.

4 large baking potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon minced jarred jalapeno peppers

1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

14-ounce can refried beans

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2/3 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Wash and dry the potatoes, then pierce each several times with a fork. Microwave on high for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Timing will vary by microwave.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the olive oil, garlic, onion and jalapenos. Saute until the onion just begins to get tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and saute until browned, about another 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and refried beans, then mix well and reduce heat to low. Bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, then cover and reduce heat to just keep warm.

Carefully cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scoop out the insides and place them in a large bowl. Leave about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of potato all around the skin. Arrange the potato skins on a baking sheet. Set aside.

To the bowl of potatoes, add 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, the ricotta and milk. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill the potato skins almost to overflowing with the meat-and-bean mixture. Carefully spoon a bit of the potato-and-cheese mixture over the meat. Sprinkle each with some of the remaining cheddar.

Bake until the cheese melts and the mashed potato topping just begins to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving: 418 calories; 138 calories from fat; 15 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 26 g protein; 7 g fiber; 558 mg sodium.

– AP food editor J.M. Hirsch can be e-mailed at jhirsch@ap.org.