There were a few more items in our fairly bare cupboard when we returned from our Colorado visit. Besides, I was holding off a trip to the grocery store for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I felt a bit lazy.
I found two russet potatoes, and baked potatoes came to mind. They are certainly easy, but they also seemed a little boring. Twice-baked potatoes use almost exactly the same ingredients, but somehow they seem a little more festive, so that’s what I decided to do.
Just out of the oven
Ready to eat
- 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
- vegetable shortening
- 2 slices bacon
- 4 crimini mushrooms, chopped coarsely
- 4 tablespoons butter + more for the topping
- ¼ cup cream
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Rub the potatoes all over with vegetable shortening, pierce on both sides in several places with a kitchen fork and place on a baking rack in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, turning once halfway through the baking. Remove from the oven and cool until the potatoes are easy to handle.
- Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and with a large spoon, scoop out the flesh, leaving about ¼ inch rim intact. Try not to pierce the skin. Transfer the scooped out flesh to a large bowl. Mash coarsely with a table fork.
- In the meantime, sauté the bacon in a small pan over medium-low heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on several layers of paper towelling and crumble when cooled. Set aside.
- Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat in the still hot pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté until cooked through. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter, and stir it into the mashed potatoes along with the cream and sour cream. Then add the shallot, garlic and Gruyère cheese. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Divide the mixture evenly among the hollowed potato shells. Smooth the tops, paint with more melted butter using a pastry brush. Sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the middle of the oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. Then increase the oven temperature to 400°F and continue to bake until the tops of the stuffed potatoes are browned, about 10 more minutes. Watch closely to prevent burning.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Two potato halves make a light dinner or lunch. One potato half is a good side dish.
Every Friday evening, our village market holds a wine tasting which has become a neighborhood gathering. The market owners use the event as an opportunity to introduce new products. One that caught my eye recently was a package of potato gnocchi imported from Italy and made by Del Destino Foods with the advantage that they required no refrigeration and could be stored in the pantry.
I very much like well-made gnocchi, although they are somewhat hard to find, even in good restaurants. They are often too leaden or else disintegrate rather than being the fluffy cloud like pillows that they can be. I’ve tried to make my own, but they take a bit of work and mine have really been no better than others. I was inspired to buy a package of cellophane-wrapped gnocchi for a trial at home. I could have just opted to cook them according to directions and top them with olive oil and grated Parmesan.
Instead, I decided to combine them with lamb in the form of meatballs along with mint pesto. (What’s a better combination than lamb and mint, right?)
To make the meatballs I used a #60 scoop. I didn’t know what that meant, so when I looked up scoops, I learned that they are assigned a number according to size, the number referring to how many scoops it takes to make a quart. So a #60 scoop holds about ½ ounce, level, and more when heaping. In this recipe, you should expect about 30 meatballs.
I liked the way everything turned out, and the gnocchi were good, not great. At least they were not sinkers, they had a good taste, and they were fast. In fact, they were good enough that I will try them again. However, I’ve also made a plan to make my own soon.
Lamb meatballs formed with a No. 60 scoop
Lamb meatballs browned, sautéed and kept warm
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ½ cup milk
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
- salt and pepper
- Italian seasoning to taste (optional)
- pure olive oil
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk. Stir to mix thoroughly and set aside.
- In a larger bowl, combine the ground lamb and egg. Stir in the milk-bread crumb mixture, shallots, and pepper. You may need to use your hands to get the meatball mixture well combined.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and, if desired, Italian seasoning.
- Form the meatballs to the size you desire. I think smaller is better.
- In a saucepan over a medium flame, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the meatballs in batches, turning them until they are completely browned. Continue to sauté for an additional 5 minutes until they are cooked through. Keep warm until you are ready to compose the serving bowls.
Mint and parsley for the pesto
- 1 bunch parsley, stems removed
- 1 package mint, stems removed
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and stem and any green shoots removed
- ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup English walnuts
- salt and pepper
- Place the parsley, mint, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in the beaker of a food processor.
- Pulse, gradually adding olive oil and stopping occasionally to push down the sides with a spatula.
- When the pesto has reached the desired consistency, add the walnuts, pulse briefly, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Lamb Meatballs, Mint-Parsley Pesto, Potato Gnocchi
Packaged Del Destino potato gnocchi
When gnocchi rise to the top of the boiling water, they are done
Cooked gnocchi scooped out of the boiling water
Lamb meatballs, mint-parsley pesto, potato gnocchi ready to eat.
- 1 package gnocchi cooked according to instructions
- 1 batch mint-parsley pesto (see above)
- 1 batch lamb meatballs (see above)
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Boil and drain the packaged gnocchi according to instructions. Distribute among 4 pasta bowls
- Top with a desired amount of pesto. You may need to dilute it with a bit of the water reserved from boiling the gnocchi
- Arrange meatballs on top of the pesto. Serve immediately. Pass the grated Parmesan separately.