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Twice-Baked Potatoes

First made in the village of Cheddar in England, cheddar cheese is appreciated for its tangy, salty flavor, which ranges from mild to sharp, depending on age. Although naturally a creamy white, cheddar is often dyed orange with annatto, a paste made from achiote seeds. Other cheese-and-greens combinations that would be good in this recipe include fontina cheese and arugula, goat cheese and watercress, and Jack cheese and mustard greens.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large russet potatoes, about 2 1/2 lb. total, scrubbed and patted dry
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves rinsed well
  • 2 Tbs. sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup firmly packed shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté until the shallot is translucent, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the spinach, and toss until wilted but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach mixture to a sieve set over a bowl and press all the liquid out of the spinach.

Using a serrated knife, cut a slice 1/2 inch thick off one long side of each potato and discard. Scoop out the potato flesh into a bowl, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick. Add the sour cream, salt, pepper and the remaining 4 Tbs. butter to the potato flesh and mash with a potato masher to blend. Stir in 2/3 cup of the cheese and then the spinach. Spoon the potato mixture into the potato shells, mounding it high. Press the remaining cheese on top of the filling.

Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. To test for doneness, stick a small knife into a potato and leave it there for about 15 seconds. Remove the knife and feel the blade; if it is hot, the potatoes are ready. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook, Edited by Chuck Williams (Free Press, 2008).