Since my parents are in town at the moment–they live about 5 1/2 hours away–I got to try a recipe for dinner that I’d think twice about for just my kids. Why, you ask?
We actually have three issues with potatoes in this house. Number one is that NONE of my children have liked them until recently (and really, this baffles me. I mean, aren’t potatoes pretty innocuous?). The oldest–who is also the least picky–has started to come around, but the middle is NOT a fan and the boy seems pretty underwhelmed thus far. The second issue is really just habit…before we had kids I worked two jobs and didn’t cook on a regular basis, and you know what eventually go bad (and smell really foul when they do)? Potatoes. You know what doesn’t go bad and keeps for an incredibly long time? Pasta. And rice. The third issue, however, is the trickiest. If it weren’t for this, I could overcome the habit problem. But the sad fact of the matter is this:
Peeling potatoes makes me sneeze.
No, seriously. It starts a few potatoes in, and by the fourth or fifth, I’m sneezing multiple times a potato, and if I happen to be peeling enough for, say, Thanksgiving–back when I was a kid, and living with my sister who never met a potato she didn’t like–then I can’t breathe through my nose for the rest of the day. It’s awful. I don’t know why, and I know it’s weird, but my mother actually started excusing me from potato peeling on major holidays (and you KNOW it’s legit if my mother let me off the hook–I may be the youngest, but she’s not the spoiling type). My sister–yes, the potato lover, I’ve only got one–started up with the same problem a few years ago, which is much sadder for her than for me. I can take or leave potatoes, you see. I’m fine with them, but I don’t miss them when they’re not there (even after living with more than one Idaho potato farmer roommate!). Mostly I wish they were a better occasional carb option for dinner, but like I said, that’s dicey with my kiddos.
Anyway, since my parents (who, coincidentally, now live in Idaho!) are in town, and they are both fans, I decided to try this Loaded Baked Potato and Chicken Casserole. It went over much better than expected with the family (not SO much with the Middle, but that was really too much to hope for), and I really enjoyed it. I sprinkled some Lawry’s Seasoned Vegetable & Pork Rub on top of my serving–I discovered this quite by accident (it’s kind of a funny story, so maybe I’ll tell it sometime!), but it’s my favorite way to flavor a cheesy baked potato. There are a few issues noted in the comments, but I didn’t find them to be deal-breakers. When cooked as directed, the potatoes on top of mine were firm but done enough, which is the way I like them; if you like really soft potatoes, I’d dice them fairly small (or up the cook time, or parboil…you get the idea). I used evaporated milk instead of heavy cream, and it did look curdled when I took it out of the oven, but neither the flavor or texture bothered me. It didn’t look pretty, but then, I’ve already mentioned that I don’t care all that much about what food looks like (within reason, of course.) I thought the chicken would be weird, but it absorbed enough cheesy and bacon flavor that I actually enjoyed it, and you really need it for the protein if you want this as a decently filling main course (that is, if you’ve got a metabolism like mine.) I served broccoli on the side, which seemed thematically fitting, and this was a respectable dinner. I’m absolutely going to make it again, although I’m open to suggestions about the cream/evaporated milk issue that don’t involve cream of chicken soup (I’m not looking for the flavor change that would bring). Any ideas?