I think I like, no, I think I love, loaded baked potatoes. I must as I just noticed last week that I've pinned 3 different recipes for Loaded Baked Potato Soup on Pinterest. (Please follow me if you are a fellow pinner. Yikes, does that sound right? I went to high school in the 80's and "pinner" had a much different meaning. Hmmmm? What do you call one who pins stuff on Pinterest?) Anywho, back to baked potatoes. The last soup recipe I pinned come from the Tasty Kitchen Blog. Boy it looks yummy, I am totes going to make this soon. As I was poking around on the Tasty Kitchen Blog, I came across this recipe for Potatoes Romanoff. Looked delish, but I still had fully loaded baked potatoes on my mind: visions of sour cream, cheese, onions, cream cheese and of course, bacon dancing in my head. Then it hit me, Baked Potato Casserole. Just a few tweaks* of the Potatoes Romanoff recipe and "Loaded Baked Potato Casserole" became a reality. It's the perfect marriage of Baked and Mashed Potatoes. I hope you agree. . .
*One of the major tweaks I made was to reduce the amount of shallots by quite a bit. This is mostly due to my husbands grand aversion to onion. As written the recipe has a mild onion presence. If you like onion you could certainly up the shallots to 3 or 4 for a bolder onion flavor. You could also sprinkle the top with sliced green onion after it's baked. Please do and know that I'll be envious of you for it.
The day before, did you get that, this step needs to be done THE DAY BEFORE!
Scrub and pat dry potatoes. Wrap in foil and bake at 425°F for about an hour. You can put them on a pan but I just usually set them directly on the oven rack. Let them cool to room temperature, unwrap and refrigerate over night on a plate covered with plastic wrap. Then go enjoy the rest of your day.
The next day, or day after that, whenever you plan to serve the casserole, start by dicing up 6 slices of bacon and crisping it up. Remove to a paper towel to drain.
In a very large bowl, shred the potatoes, skin and all. If you start to get big pieces of skin, just throw them out, but small bits of shredded skin are a good thing. Gives the casserole some added texture.
Add in 2 cups of shredded cheese, the bacon and shallots. Toss around until well combined. Go gently, you don't want to end up with mashed potatoes.
If you forgot to set the cream cheese out and it's not at room temperature you can put it in the microwave for 20-40 seconds until it's soft. Stir it around to loosen it up. You can also add a bit of the sour cream to loosen it up more. What you're trying to avoid is big globs of cream cheese.
Add the cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper and mix well. Again, do this gently.
Then plop the whole mess into a 2 quart casserole dish. Don't pack it in or try to level out the top. Just fill it up with a fairly even layer. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Bake it for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven.
It's done when the cheese is melted and you've got browned "peaks" and edges.
Scoop some up, hot out of the oven. You can garnish with a dab more sour cream and some shredded cheese. Some green onions or chives would also be nice. This dish makes great leftovers, our family of 4 ate on it for 3 days. It's great with steak or why not buck tradition and serve it instead of mashed potatoes this holiday season. This is going with me to the next pot luck, fo show! I dare you not to love it.
Loaded Baked Potato Casserole
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen "Potatoes Romanoff"
3 large russet potatoes, skins on
6 slices bacon, diced
2 medium shallots, finely minced
2-1/2 C. grated cheddar cheese
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 C. sour cream
1/2 C. (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened
One day ahead:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Scrub potatoes and pat dry. Wrap in foil and bake 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Unwrap and refrigerate overnight, on a plate covered with plastic wrap.
The day of:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Fry bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate potatoes (with skin on) into a large bowl. Add bacon, 2 cups shredded cheese, shallots, salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine. Stir together sour cream and softened cream cheese. Gently fold into potato mixture. Loosely spoon mixture into a 2 quart oven safe casserole being careful not to pack it down too much. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes.
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