Sunday, December 21, 2014

Double baked, pesto coated potatoes - note I don't have a proper name for this dish :-)

In all my life so far, I haven't come across a single person that says he/she didn't like potatoes. I for sure is not one of them. I am actually sad that these delicious roots get a bad rap all the time from health experts. When eaten the right way, these not only taste out of the world but also provide a multitude of nutrients. Just don't consume them as fries all the time :-)

These spuds didn't make a frequent occurrence in nammamma's kitchen, not sure why though. It was the occasional alugedde-eerulli huli (sambar made with potatoes & onions) that I craved for or the masala palya for dose. Do you ask what is so special about a sambar with potatoes & onions? My answer would be 'try it, atleast once in your life", this is a special, very special combination and the gravy just comes alive with the 'made in heaven' match of the two roots.
I am not talking about the huli today, nope but all this talk about potato-onion huli reminds me that I haven't made it in a while, should put it on the 'to-make' list. What I have today is an equally delicious and comforting dish made with potatoes. It meshes the freshness of mint with the bland potatoes and baking it until soft yet crispy with melted cheese on top.. I will stop describing it and give you the recipe so you can make it and enjoy too :-)

I have a MSN food app on my laptop which I visit sometimes when the picture catches my attention. A few weeks back (before Thanksgiving I think), they had many recipes apt for the season, there were a number of Turkey dishes, sweet potatoes served in many creative ways and then there was a double baked potato stuffed with more potatoes and topped with cheese :-). I loved the look of it and wanted to try it.
For the last few days, I have been busy and my usually full refrigerator & kitchen have a deserted look. With a teenager at home that feels hungry all of a sudden it has not been easy and as she was working on her never ending homework one of the weekends, she whined that there was nothing interesting to eat at home :-(. That whine sounds very familiar, if I remember right, that is the age at which nammamma gave me an ultimatum and said instead refusing to eat everything that was offered/available, I should start making what I wanted and thus happened my serious entry into the world of cooking. The conversations used to be somewhat on these lines, I would say that was hungry, amma would offer 1,2,3.. choices and I would keep saying I didn't like it or didn't feel like eating it. Amma would exasperatedly ask what I wanted to eat but I never had an answer since I didn't know it myself :-). Things always have a way of coming back.

Now though a fair complaint that is a substantially big insult to someone who calls herself a passionate cook and a blogger. So, I went into the kitchen and looked around to create something delicious and win DD back. With the image of the baked potatoes in my head, I used pesto I had made for pasta couple days back instead of following the original recipe to T. I not only coated the potatoes with the pesto but also gave some kick to the stuffing with crunchy onions and mixing some pesto into it. And viola, DD was all smiles after gorging down a plate of those baked beauties, mission accomplished :-). She is not interested in stepping into the kitchen though to make something on her own.

You can replace pesto with other chutney or sauces of choice but the nutty, minty pesto just took this a step ahead of other combinations. Give it a try and then experiment. The original recipe called for initially baking the potatoes (see the 'double baked' in the name, that is where it came from) for about 40 mins but since I didn't have the time, I opted to steam it in my rice cooker/steamer which took just 10 minutes to be done. I think baking it the first time slightly dries out the potatoes, hence the need for all the butter the original recipe called for. Steaming kept them moist and soft and I didn't use any fat other than the scant 1 Tsp oil to prepare the stuffing.
What do you need to make baked pesto potatoes? 
6-8 small (not baby) potatoes
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp grated cheese (I used mozzarella)
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp oil
1/2 Tsp lime/lemon juice
for Pesto: 
2 Tbsp almonds
2 Tbsp walnuts
1 Tsp pine nuts
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2-3 green chilies
1 tsp salt

How do you make baked pesto potatoes? 
  • Scrub the potatoes well to rid of any dirt. 
  • Cut each potato in half with the skin on. 
  • Steam or boil them in hot water until just tender. 
  • Let cool and with a sharp knife/spoon, scoop out the center of the potatoes leaving a thin layer to hold the skin. Reserve the scooped out insides. 
  • Take all ingredients listed under Pesto into a blender and using as little water as necessary, grind it into a fine paste. 
  • Add lemon/lime juice and give it a mix. 
  • Taste test and adjust salt or green chilies. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, crush cumin in palms, add it to the oil, let it sizzle. 
  • Add chopped onion and let it sweat for a minute or two. 
  • Mash all the scooped potatoes into a smooth dough, add it to the onion and mix well. 
  • Add couple of tbsp of pesto into this mixture and taste test it. 
  • Let it cook for just a min before switching off. 
  • Preheat the oven to 400F, prepare a cookie sheet with a baking spray. 
  • Take one of the potato halves, coat the insides with pesto, add a generous scoop of mashed potato mixture into the groove and stuff it in. 
  • Top it with grated cheese. 
  • Repeat for all potato halves. 
  • Arrange them in the cookie sheet and bake for about 30 mins. 
  • Take it out and serve warm as an appetizer or a snack. 
  • I use small size red potatoes for this recipe, the skin is very thin. Golden russets work well too. 
  • Bring the nuts to room temperature if you freeze them like me before making pesto. 
  • Feel free to play around with nuts of choice in the pesto. 

1 comment:

NamsVeni Pothas said...

this is very interesting recipe suits for a holiday movie watching. red potatoes are really good in taste. thanks for the wonderful snack.