Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicken and Pesto Twice Baked Potatoes

I'm having a serious case of the Mondays. Yesterday I had a terrible allergy flare-up, so I was stuffy and miserable and sneezy and by bedtime I could bear it no longer, and I took a nighttime decongestant to help me sleep. You know how those things are. They help you sleep, yes, but the problem is you still feel half asleep for the entire next day. I never learn my lesson. But hey, at least my allergies aren't flaring up anymore!

I have no good segue into this recipe, but I just had to tell you about my moment of stupidity. Let this be a warning to you: Don't take a nighttime decongestant if you have to be productive the next day.

On to the potatoes, yes? I rarely make twice-baked potatoes, because I just don't have an hour and a half to make dinner during the week. I decided to give these a whirl one weekend, though. What I love about them is that, with the addition of chicken, they're actually a main dish in one neat little potato package. The flavors are great, and the filling is nice and creamy (sometimes it can be too dry). Add more liquid than you think you need, because the potatoes can really soak it up. My boys thought these were really fun, and my husband enjoyed them too, so they were definitely a winner in my house.

Chicken and Pesto Twice Baked Potatoes
adapted from Sunny Side Up

2 large Idaho baking potatoes
Olive oil and kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.

2. Scrub the outside of the potatoes really well, then pat dry with paper towels, prick each potato with a fork 6-8 times, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle each potato with about a teaspoon of oil and use a pastry brush to evenly distribute over surface then sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the potatoes and repeat on the other side. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until they are tender when pricked.

3. When the potatoes are close to being done, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the half and half and broth. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. After the sauce has simmered, add the pesto and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

4. Once the potatoes have finished baking, cut them in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the insides, leaving a thin shell around the edges, then return the shells, open side up, to the baking sheet. Place the potato guts in a bowl. Use a fork to slightly mash the potatoes. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the potatoes and stir to incorporate. Taste again for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. If the mixture's too dry, add more half and half or chicken broth. Add the cooked shredded chicken and stir.

5. Fill the potato shells with the filling, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and return them to the hot oven for 10 minutes, switching to the broiler for the last minute or so if the cheese hasn’t yet started to turn golden brown.

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