OK guys, I’m going to be honest with you. This post isn’t about the potatoes. Those delicious little buttery-salty-peppery guys with their crispy skins were merely an afterthought. A vehicle to contain something I discovered yesterday, very much by accident.
It all started when I told my parents that I’d make ravioli for dinner. (Wait, let me back up a second — I’m in NY again for a couple days. My mom is doing great [and even going back to work next week!]. I’m just here because I love my childhood dentist and my hometown mechanic, and will therefore drive four hours to see either of them. That’s less crazy if I’m combining visits to both into the same trip, right?)
Anyway, back to the ravioli. My mom and I had taken a trip down to the Schoharie valley the day before and, amongst other things, picked up a couple bags of fresh spinach. So I figured I’d do a very basic spinach and ricotta filling, with a little bit of garlic and parmesan. The happy accident began when I got a bit heavy-handed with the olive oil, adding too much to the pan in which I was going to cook the garlic and spinach. “NICE! A healthy mistake,” I said to myself, mentally citing those reports I’d been hearing about the Mediterranean diet all day. I threw the garlic in once the oil was nice and hot, and let it sizzle away for a couple of minutes. I then turned back to the counter and realized that my plan to sautée the spinach with the garlic wasn’t exactly feasible, given just how big and puffy the spinach was at present. But I decided to throw it all in the pan anyhow, then cover it and let it steam a bit, until it had wilted enough to satuée.
After a few minutes, I removed the lid of the pan. Instantly, it hit me: the smell garlic bagels. Now, obviously, there are no bagels or bread of any kind involved here. What I was experiencing was the aroma of toasted garlic. The same amazing little bits that cover delicious garlic bagels. (I love garlic bagels and I don’t have much experience with toasted garlic outside of them — can you tell?)
So, what happened in that pan while it was covered seems to be that the spinach steamed, as I’d intended, but the garlic continued to crisp up in the oil at the bottom of the pan, giving a wonderful flavor to the spinach as it cooked. And the end result was awesome. The taste held up in the finished dish perfectly, managing to cut through the cheese and the tomato sauce to bring a garlicky, toasty flavor to everything. I played it cool with my parents, pretending that I kind of meant to do that, casually saying, “Isn’t it nice how that toasty garlic flavor really comes through?” instead of, “Holy sh*t you guys, can you even believe what an awesome thing I just did?!?!”
Since then, I’ve been considering all the possibilities of my discovery. It could work with a variety of greens, and would also likely be great with a mix of garlic and onion (or even just onion by itself). And it would be an awesome topping for a variety of things. Which brings me, at last, to the potatoes.
I am the sort of person who gets really into baked potatoes. (Get ready, I’m going to tell you all about it.) I love to cover their skins with olive oil and liberal amounts of salt and pepper before they go into the oven. And when they’re ready to eat, I pretty much make mashed potatoes in each potato half — breaking up all the insides then mixing them around with lots of butter and salt and pepper. And then, at last, there are the skins — my favorite part — covered with even more salt and pepper, and so crispy and delicious.
When potato season is just beginning, I love nothing more than a plain baked potato covered in butter and salt and pepper. But as we get further into winter, it’s great to be able to dress them up with some other fixin’s. And toasted garlic and greens are definitely welcome additions. I also love ricotta or Greek yoghurt as a substitute for sour cream, and I opted for ricotta here since it was what we had on hand. Greek yoghurt would usually be my first choice since it has a great tart flavor, but I do enjoy the ricotta as well, especially when it’s combined with a bit of salt and lemon zest. I wound up using tiny potatoes because they were the only ones in the house, but I’ve adjusted the recipe below to accommodate more standard-sized potatoes. (One other note: The garlic in these pictures isn’t quite as toasted as it should be, as I was racing against the dying light to take these photos. You want it to be really toasted [like, totally toasted, man...]. Seriously though, you’re aiming for crispy browned garlic bits, with no white garlic flesh in sight.) If you make these, you will not be disappointed. And I suggest contemplating the other ways in which you can use toasted garlic greens as well!
Baked Potatoes with Ricotta, Swiss Chard, & Toasted Garlic
- 4 medium to large potatoes
- 1 bunch of swiss chard (or other greens), chopped
- 1 small bulb of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup of ricotta
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
Preheat oven to 425°. Prick potatoes a few times with a fork, then place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, add a few shakes of salt and pepper, then rub potatoes to coat evenly. Bake for 45–60 minutes, or until you can stick a fork in without feeling any resistance.
While the potatoes are baking, heat a liberal amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. (I used a 10″ skillet and around 3 tablespoons of oil.) Once oil is hot, add garlic and sautée for 2–3 minutes. Add swiss chard, then cover. Let cook for several minutes, or until greens appear wilted and garlic is browning well. Once the garlic is browned and crispy, remove the lid and sautée for a few minutes, then remove from pan and set aside.
Combine ricotta and lemon zest in a bowl, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Once potatoes are ready, divide in half and break up insides. Add a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Top with ricotta and garlicky greens.