As I do every year, I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving with dueling urges to consume pie for breakfast as well as to repent with an endless sequence of brothy vegetable soups until I no longer dreamed of pumpkin cheesecake, cranberry caramel almond tarts and chocolate silk. I vowed make the wholesome side triumph this year, however, yet somewhere along my righteous path to eating kale salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I remembered that kale salad tastes absolutely nothing like pie and that was basically the end of that. By dinner that night, we were digging into terrifying heaps of spaghetti and meatballs at Carmine’s, followed by overstuffed chocolate cannolis. There wasn’t a ribbon of kale in sight.
By Sunday night, however, I’d found a happier medium between total submersion in butter, cream and chocolate and the kind of austerity measures that never quite cut it when it’s 33 degrees outside: the twice-baked potato, restuffed with not only the usual sour cream and cheese, but an entire bundle of greens. Greens make everything healthy, okay?
The inspiration came from a version on Food52 created by the blogger behind Brussels Sprouts for Breakfast who had served these, I think rather brilliantly, as a side to her family’s surf-and-turf Christmas Eve tradition. Of course, I ended up veering a bit off recipe, using less cheese (I hardly know myself, either) and sour cream, adding a softly cooked leek, using far fewer chile flakes (my heat wimpiness thus established) and then, although kale was supposed to be the theme, I actually had a bundle of Swiss chard ready to age out of the fridge and used that instead. You, too, can take liberties here: spinach would be welcome, or another green of your choice; you could use parmesan, goat cheese or cream cheese instead of the traditional cheddar or comté I used. If you’ve got a surplus of shallots or scallions instead of leeks after the holiday, you could use them instead.
But I do hope you make it because I cannot express loudly enough how much this hit the spot — toasty and a little decadent, but green enough that I didn’t even feel the need to make a salad on the side. It was the perfect light dinner cap on the end of a long weekend of heavy eating. Even the kid, suspect of all green things that are not steamed broccoli or cucumbers, ate one which means that this goes straight into the annals of weeknight favorites. Hallelujah.
This Thursday, 12/4/14: At the Food52 Holiday Market [168 Bowery, NYC], I’ll be demo-ing these Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns, one of my favorite festive winter recipes. The demo portion, 11 to noon, is ticketed ($10). The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook will also be for sale and I’ll be signing books between noon and 1pm; no ticket is required to attend the book signing. [Sign up, buy tickets and find more information on the Food52 Holiday Market site]
Signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks: Have you ever wanted to buy someone a Smitten Kitchen Cookbook but you wanted it to say something really specific, like Merry Christmas! or Congratulations on your engagement! (Now bake me some cookies.) or No matter what anyone else tells you, you’re my favorite reader. No seriously. It’s you. all of which have happened last year because you guys really are that funny and awesome. Well, you can! I work with McNally-Jackson, an independent bookstore in Soho to sign books; I sign them, they mail them out. This year, we have a hard deadline for Christmas shipping (i.e. you’d pay standard and not rushed shipping and the book will reach you by Christmas) of Monday, December 15th. [Order Custom Inscribed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks from McNally Jackson]
One year ago: Cigarettes Russes Cookies
Two years ago: Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Pomegranate
Three years ago: Nutmeg-Maple Butter Cookies
Four years ago: Apple Latkes
Five years ago: Cappucino Fudge Cheesecake and Balsamic-Braised Brussels with Pancetta
Six years ago: Pumpkin Cupcakes, Cabbage Apple and Walnut Salad
Seven years ago: Tiramisu Cake and Curried Lentils and Sweet Potatoes
Eight years ago: Apple Pie and Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Nancy’s Chopped Salad
1.5 Years Ago: Lobster and Potato Salad
2.5 Years Ago: Asparagus with Almonds and Yogurt Dressing
3.5 Years Ago: Fudge Popsicles
I think these could also be good as a party appetizer, perhaps twice-baked little red potatoes? A little fussy, scooping and restuffing all of those little potatoes, but what delicious bites they’d be. A melon baller made easy, neat work of the scooping (also my favorite to remove halved apple cores).
Serves 6 as a side; 3 as a hearty main
3 russet potatoes (mine were 9 to 10 ounces each)
1 bundle lacinato kale (aka dinosaur, tuscan or black kale), swiss chard or spinach (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large leek
1 cup coarsely grated cheddar, gruyere or comté, 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino, or 1/2 to 2/3 cup cream cheese or goat cheese, softened
3/4 cup sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
Heat oven to 400°F (205°C).
Cook potatoes the first time: Gently scrub potatoes but do not peel. Pierce all over with a fork so that steam escapes [raise your hand if you’ve forgotten to do this and had the pleasure of jumping three inches off the sofa due to an oven ka-pow!] Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced in center with a skewer. Leave oven on.
Alternatively, you could microwave fork-pierced potatoes for 10, turning them over halfway through to ensure even cooking. You could also boil the whole potato for 15 minutes.
While potatoes cook, prepare your filling: Tear kale, chard or spinach leaves from stems (you can save the stems for another use, such as a vegetable stock or juicing) and plunge leaves in cold water to remove any residual dirt or grit. No need to dry them when you’re done. Tear leaves into large chunks. Heat a skillet over medium-high and add greens and a pinch of salt. Cook them in the pan with just the water clinging to the leaves until they wilt and collapse. Transfer to a colander and when cool enough to handle, wring out any extra moisture in small fistfuls. On a cutting board, finely chop greens. You should have about a cup of wrung-out, well-chopped greens; don’t worry if you have a little more or less.
Trim leek down to just yellow and pale green part. Halve lengthwise — if it’s gritty inside, plunge it in cold water to remove grit, then pat dry. Cut leek halves lengthwise again, so that they’re in quarter-stalks, and thinly slice.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add butter and oil. Once both are warm, add leek and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until mostly tender and sweet, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Try to avoid letting it brown. Add chopped greens back to skillet and warm with leeks, 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
Prepare potatoes: When potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve lengthwise and scoop out all but the last 1/4-inch thickness of skin and potato (essentially, you want to leave a shell inside for stability) and add potato filling to bowl with leeks and greens. Arrange the potato shells on a baking sheet. Mash potatoes, leeks and greens together until smooth. Stir in the sour cream, 3/4 of cheese and more salt and pepper than you think you’ll need. Heap filling in prepared potato skins. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 of cheese.
Bake potatoes a second time: For 20 to 30 minutes, until bronzed and crisp on top.