Cottage Pie Baked Potatoes
Greetings from the air, friends!!
I’m currently winging my way from Richmond to Minneapolis and not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous about the transition. ‘Twas a balmy 75 and sunny in RVA yesterday, tricking me into thinking it was already spring. I took myself out to a sassy business lunch, sat outside listening to my murder podcast sans sweater, and was gifted a very subtle face tan. Needless to say, it was glorious.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as glorious in good old Minneapolis. My handy weather app warned me last night to expect serious snow allll weekend—which it did NOT advise me of earlier this week—and I was so distracted by snack pack assembly on Wednesday (priorities!) that I completely forgot to pack a down coat just in case. Or a sweater. Or snow boots. Or fucking socks. (This is why I need an assistant, dammit.)
I’m currently going over the contents of my suitcase in my head and wondering whether wearing two dresses on top of each other could be a hot new look. Perhaps Minneapolins (is that what one calls residents of Minneapolis? no?) will respect my resourcefulness and/or trendsetting? Fingies crossed.
Other genius ideas I have for staying toasty in the Minnesota tundra:
- Eat everything in my snack pack right now. A couple extra pounds could act as insulation.
- Drink all the beer in Minneapolis, starting this evening at my Lakes and Legends Brewery event. Everyone knows a beer jacket is the best jacket. (Come drink with me, Minneapolins!)
- Tie together all the blankets in my Airbnb and don them like a fancy cape.
Feel free to cast your vote or leave other survival suggestions in the comments. I’m currently leaning towards option #3. Capes are so hot right now.
Thinking about the extreme winter conditions I’m about to face is making it very painful to look at pictures of these Cottage Pie Baked Potatoes. Because a piping hot baked potato stuffed with hearty beef and vegetables and topped with melted Gruyère is precisely the type of healthy(ish) comfort food feast I want to warm me up from the inside out, and I can’t have it. At least not tonight.
But YOU can, and you should. You really, really should.
These potatoes are unreal, peeps. Prior to making these bad boys, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a baked potato, and I forgot just how awesome they are. So fluffy and starchy and satisfying, especially with a little olive oil and Gruyère mashed in. And I’m an absolute sucker for this cottage pie filling that’s spiked with Worcestershire, soy sauce (which gives it an unexpected umami depth), and fresh thyme. Truth be told, I often make the filling on its own and serve it over quinoa or brown rice, or top it with an egg for a sassy desk lunch. It comes together in all of 15 minutes, so it’s an excellent weeknight go-to, and you can easily make a double batch when you have a little extra time on Sunday or Monday to eat throughout the week. (FYI, it freezes well!)
I highly recommend making this recipe as written—it truly is delightful (and Dude Diet approved!)—but as always, you do you. Want to lighten things up a little more? Sub ground chicken or 93% lean ground turkey for the beef. Add a couple handfuls of chopped baby spinach or kale to work in more greens! Play around with different cheeses, or ditch the dairy altogether. And if you’re not a fan of white potatoes, try making these with sweet spuds. I respect your creativity!
- 4 medium russet potatoes scrubbed
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ pound 90% lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 cup finely chopped carrots about 2 medium carrots
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1½ cups low-sodium beef broth
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- ½ cup grated Gruyère cheese sharp cheddar or Fontina are also great
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Rub the potatoes all over with about 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pierce each about 6 times with the tines of a fork. (This will allow moisture to escape while the potatoes bake.) Bake for about 1 hour, turning the potatoes every 20 minutes, until the skins feel crisp but the flesh beneath is soft.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces with a spatula, until no longer pink. Transfer the beef to a fine mesh strainer to drain the excess fat. Wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onions become translucent and the carrots have softened, about 5-7 minutes. (If the vegetables start to brown, reduce the heat to medium.) Stir in the garlic.
Return the strained beef to the pan and sprinkle with the flour. Cook for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste, soy sauce, Worcestershire and fresh thyme. Cook for 1 minute (just to remove the bite from the tomato paste), then add the beef broth. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes until the filling has thickened slightly. Stir in the peas and cook for 2-3 minutes just until thawed. Cover the skillet with a lid and keep warm until ready to use.
Split the baked potatoes almost in half lengthwise (you still want them to remain intact on their undersides), drizzle the inside of each with a teaspoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork. Fold a tablespoon of Gruyère into each potato’s mash. Load each potato with a quarter of the beef filling (some will come out the sides, and that’s okay!) and top with the remaining cheese. Return to the oven for 5 minutes just until the cheese has melted. Serve warm.
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