Those Who Can’t Grill, Bake

Is it as hot in your apartment as it is in mine?

I mean, thank the lawd for 70°+ weather, but sometimes you live in buildings that (like even the best college dorms) wait until one arbitrary May day to turn on the air conditioning. And so, we throw the windows open and turn on the fans and let the sounds of Northwestern Memorial’s ambulatory fleet, our resident street saxophone player and the blistered footsteps of tourists from halfway around the world (or just Aurora) fill the living room.

It’s difficult to drum up cooking motivation when your apartment’s heat is already trapping in the food smells of one neighbor’s curry and another’s stir-fry.  It’s even more difficult when a meal could just as easily be built around the box of Drumsticks in your freezer and maybe some pineapple chunks or a bag of popcorn.

With all of this newfound outdoor time though (e.g., extended walks to Trader Joe’s, unnecessary trips outside of the neighborhood for overpriced french-pressable ground coffee, the first few – miserable – outdoor jogs of the season), there’s too much energy being burnt to subsist off snacks alone.

This time of year, plenty of people are probably starting to light up their patio grills or maybe even their (incredibly cool/eternally on my list of dream kitchen paraphernalia) stovetop grill gizmos. But when you’re downtown with no deck and a flat top electric stove, Ina’s grilled tequila lime chicken or any Bobbly Flay delight is hard to mimic.

So we switch gears to more feasible (but no less inspiring) pursuits.

In this case, it means finally squashing that incessant hankering for a cheddar and broccoli filled baked potato from IMGP4820Wendy’s. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever even had their baked potatoes in real life. But the idea alone is one that makes me contemplate the 10 block walk from my office to the nearest franchise most days. The power of advertising, folks.

If you are fortunate enough to have a grill of your very own, this would make a fine addition to any BBQ-type, summer jump-off/gathering/solo dinner you might be planning. Regardless of your setup, this makes a perfectly satisfying dinner on its own (but probably made better with at least a glass of Malbec or a mojito or simply some Knob Creek and ginger ale.)

Twice-Baked Kale Potatoes
3 potatoes = 6 twice-baked halves = 2-3 servings (if eating as a main course.)
Adapted from Food52.

3 russet potatoes
1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped
2 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 c grated cheddar (please treat yourself to some Dubliner)
1 c sour cream
1 tsp crushed red pepper
Olive oil
Salt + pepper
~5 slices bacon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse the potatoes and poke holes in each with a fork. For a much-needed shortcut, throw these in the microwave to get their insides perfectly soft. Cook them in the science oven for around 15 minutes, rotating every 5 minutes or so.

While the potatoes are mid-nuke, warm 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add in the shallots and red pepper flakes, cooking for 5 minutes. Mix in the garlic and sauté for another few minutes. Toss in the kale, some salt and pepper, then cover the pan so everything can wilt (around 10 minutes total, string every couple of minutes.)

Take the mixture out of the pan and, when cool enough to handle, chop it up until it turns into a pesto-ish paste.

Once the potatoes are microwaved and cooled, slice each in half. Scoop out the innards, leaving around 1/4 inch of skin/center inside. Put the potato guts in a large bowl and mash together. Work in the cheese, sour cream, kale mixture, and some more salt & pepper to taste.

With the potato shells arranged on a baking sheet, scoop the cheesy mixture back into each. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Optional add-on: While the potatoes are baking, fry up some bacon to your preferred crispiness (in the same pan you used for the kale, because why muck up another huge pan…) Crumble on top of the potatoes immediately before serving.


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