Crispy (!) Oven Baked Fries

You know what I love? (Other than bacon and goat cheese and puppies, obviously.) Potatoes.

I didn’t always. I still have flashbacks to the day my Mom first took us to Boston Market (which at the time was called Boston Chicken). First off, we thought it was in Boston. Despite the fact that we lived in Pittsburgh and it was already dinner time. So why we thought Mom was driving us to Boston… kid logic.

We got our rotisserie chicken and a whole smorgasbord  of sides and went home to dig in. I was offered mashed potatoes, which I happily accepted. The first bite was lumpy. I refused additional bites.

Texture, my friends, is important. Especially to weirdos like me. Lumpy mashed potatoes were just inedible to my youthful palette (I like to think that I’ve grown since then, but I still don’t eat Jello or bananas for textural reasons).

Knowing my parents, I’m sure I finished them. Otherwise, no dessert. And dessert was probably those BM cinnamon sugar apples. And no one doesn’t like those cinnamon sugar apples. Right?

So, I was a bit scarred from the lumpy mashed potato experience. Even today, my mashed potatoes are nice and smooth – though I can and do enjoy lumpy ones (without complaint) if offered. (Sometimes I actually like them, much to the chagrin of 7-year-old me.)

But I digress. This post isn’t about mashed potatoes, just the starchy veggie in general. Perhaps best known for the french fried variety. Of course, french fried potatoes are not particularly healthy (taking something not that good for you in the first place and dipping it in hot oil a few times doesn’t create a health food?!). So, to the oven we go.

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Now. I’ve made A LOT of different oven baked fry recipes over the years. And they all have the same problem. Mush city. Part of the appeal of french fries is the crunch you get while eating them (and the salt, of course). My oven baked version was just never as good until I learned the secret.

Soak those bad boys in water first!

You can soak them for an hour or two, or way less, like I do. Usually, I soak them for about as long as it takes the oven to heat up to 475 (mine takes a few minutes). When you’re ready to bake, drain the water, dry them off, and you’ll be in crispy fry heaven.

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These little wedges can’t wait to become fries.

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Olive oil, salt and pepper in the pan. Salt and pepper on top. Plus more salt for luck.

The baking process is a bit time consuming. I start them in the oven covered for 5 minutes or so, then reduce the heat by 50 degrees, remove the cover and bake for about 15 minutes.

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The wedges should be starting to get opaque (see my attempt at capturing this effect above) and the bottoms should be starting to brown. Flip em over and give them another 10-15 minutes.

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They taste as crispy as they look.

Serve these HOT with whatever toppings you like. Pro tip: don’t pile them all in a bowl, or they will quickly get soggy (the evil mush returns). I like to drain mine in one layer on a paper towel-lined plate and then serve each individual.

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BBQ Chicken Stuffed Baked Potato Skins

I should have called this blog Dad Loves Bacon. Except, alliteration. And, truly, Dad LIKES bacon, but I don’t think he loves it. I, however, clearly LOVE bacon. Could be worse, right?

Rare is the Sunday when my husband and I get the chance to veg in front of football games all day. We’re fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but as fantasy football players, it’s fun to see as many games as possible and cheer for the players on our teams.

Last Sunday was one of those rare football-watching days, which of COURSE, required football-watching snacks. Chips and dip would have probably sufficed, but last Sunday, snacks meant baked potato skins. BBQ chicken and bacon and fontina cheese stuffed baked potato skins.

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Looks terrible, right?

“Restaurant-style” potato skins are usually deep fried. Nothing wrong with that… but deep frying is capital M Messy. Broiling the potato skins keeps the crisp without the mess (and the calories), and it’s much faster.

Start by washing and then baking whole potatoes. Once they are cooked through (about an hour at 400 degrees for me), cut them in half and let them cool. Seriously! Scraping burning hot potato out of the skin is zero fun.

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You can’t tell from this picture, but these bad boys were steamy.

While the potatoes are cooling, prep the filling. Slice up your bacon and cook until crisp in a small fry pan. Chop up the shallots and chicken while the bacon cooks.

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Allow your nosy cat to watch you work.

Once the bacon is crisp, set it aside on a paper towel. Drain most, but not all of the bacon grease out of the pan. Add the garlic to the grease, cook for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook the shallots for a few minutes until they start to soften.

Add the chicken pieces and spices and stir well to combine.

Now head back to the potatoes, which should be cool enough to handle by now. Scoop out the insides of the potatoes with a spoon. You don’t want to scrape the potato completely out – try to leave a small amount of potato in the skin.

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Like this!

You can set the scoopings aside for another recipe, like this Browned Butter Baked Potato Pizza. Or Baked Potato Soup. Or Tater Tots. Etc. If you’re not planning on making something else right away, the potato insides will survive in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. I frequently make skins one night and soup/pizza/etc. the next or vice versa. Works great, and you only have to bake and scrape once!

Turn your broiler on high and rub the outsides AND insides of the skins with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

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Salty goodness.

Place the potatoes skin-side up on the pan and broil on HIGH for 3-4 minutes. I like to broil for 2 minutes at a time (and I always set a timer… too many things I have burned to a little crisp after forgetting them under the broiler). After 2 minutes, I check to make sure each one is cooking evenly (and nothing is burning).

When they are ready, the skins should be crisp and lightly browned.

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Nice little browning on the bottoms.

Flip the potatoes over and broil again, flesh-side up, for another 3-4 minutes (2 and 2 for me again!).

Hopefully you haven’t forgotten to stir your chicken while you’re working on the potatoes. Once the chicken is cooked through, mix in your favorite BBQ sauce. I usually use hot garlic BBQ sauce from our favorite wing joint, but use what you like (or have in the house).

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This bottle is actually a growler… and is clearly more than 16 oz of sauce.

Divide the chicken mixture between the broiled potato skins. Top with fontina cheese and your prepared bacon crumbles.

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I’d eat these just like this.

Broil the potatoes for a final 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with green onions and serve hot!

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Dang.

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Make Your Own Hummus

Is it weird that my first post is about hummus? It’s not even a dessert. Oh well.

Why bother making your own hummus? People ask me that question all the time. Not specifically about hummus, but – why make your own [icing, pasta sauce, caramel, pizza dough… etc.]. It’s kind of a weird question, right? But the answer is usually shades of the same thing: tastes better, cheaper, healthier, cooking is fun + relaxing! Need I say more?

Homemade hummus is SO good. Smooth, creamy, fresh. And it’s really easy!

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Start with some simple ingredients. Olive oil, chick peas (aka garbonzo beans, which my husband did not know the first time I sent him to the grocery story after them… oops), garlic, lemon, cumin and tahini.

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Dump it in a food processor. I’m technically making garlic hummus here, so if you’re not a garlic fanatic, you should probably cut back! I almost always use pre-minced garlic, rather than freshly mincing my own. As much as I LOVE garlic, I completely HATE mincing it. It’s so sticky, and the papery skin gets stick to your hands, and your knife and your cutting board and ughhh. Minced it is.

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New jars of tahini are a lot like natural peanut butter – oil on top, butter on the bottom. Gotta mix it together before adding it, or you’ll end up with all oil and little tahini flavor. I like to use a table knife to get to the bottom and slooooowly mix it (lest I spill it everywhere) until it reaches the right consistency – like runny peanut butter.

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Ingredients in? Blend that baby! If you don’t have a food processor, which I did not for a long time (thanks Mom!), you can use a blender instead. If you do use a blender, work in smaller batches to make sure everything gets blended consistently. Hummus is a little bit on the thick side for a blender, so you’ll also have to move it around with a spoon or knife a lot. BUT, if you have a food processor, just dump and blend!

Give it a taste test after you blend and add any garlic, salt, pepper or olive oil to taste. If it’s a little thick, drizzle in water while the food processor is processing, about a tablespoon at a time. If you want to make your hummus a flavor other than “plain,” now is the time to add. I like to drop a roasted red pepper in sometimes, but you can add whatever you like. Sun dried tomatoes might be tasty. Or jalapenos. Or olives.

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See? Easy-peasy. Now dip some veggies and pita in there! Or make this delicious hummus-crusted chicken recipe!

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