By Marcia Pilgeram
Count them — just a couple of days left in 2022. In my opinion, it was a pretty fair year. Most of us could spend much-needed time with friends and family, and many of us resumed traveling.
Speaking of travel, as soon as I got home from my week in Paris, I loaded the wagon and headed east to Big Sky, Montana. So, I’m here, in a mammoth vacation home, overseeing meals and activities for a group of twelve lifelong friends from Hawaii.
Knowing I’d be gone the first part of December, I started shopping, cooking and freezing soups, cookies and other treats a couple of months ago. But, of course, the trip’s biggest challenge was the frigid temperatures, which meant unloading anything that would freeze during my 30-below overnight stay in Bozeman.
Sadly, the Hawaiians missed out on their first couple of excursions due to the sub-zero weather, but being housebound gave us some time to get to know one another a little better. From the teenage girls Sera and Emi, I learned how to make their favorite snack, Spam musubi, a nosh made of a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of steamed rice wrapped together with nori. If you’re ever in Seattle, hit up the Asian market, Uwajimaya, for all musubi-making items, including more than a dozen types of Spam. I was happy to learn that all the supplies I purchased there were perfect, and Sera was so pleased with our results that she sent pictures of the musubi to her grandmother in Honolulu.
Hallmark could not have created a more idyllic holiday setting. Once it warmed up, their week was filled with skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, campfires and hot-tubbing. I was happy to stay in the cozy warm house, preparing Pupus (Hawaiian appetizers), and hearty winter dishes, like elk osso bucco and bison chili. Every holiday-themed table setting and meal that I labored over were met with pure and genuine appreciation. Every day I tried to come up with western-style dishes for these adventurous eaters. Even 10-year-old Alex who typically eats “naked pasta,” came back for seconds when I prepared bison bolognese rigatoni.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve prepared Prime Rib and twice-baked potatoes for Christmas dinner, and this year was no exception, but our 22-pound roast was nearly too large for the wall oven, and it took some real rassling to fit the roast and pan in the under-sized oven. For future culinary endeavors in vacation homes, I’ll request oven dimensions when I’m in the menu-planning stage.
It didn’t seem that long ago when I did this full time for a living, and though I discovered I don’t have the same “14-hour kitchen day” stamina I once did, I was thrilled to share my craft with the houseful of happy and hungry new friends.
I’m looking forward to sharing time with these great folks again. I’ll be meeting up with them in Hawaii in the coming new year, and I just know 2023 will be a banner year! I have a few culinary projects in the works, and some great new travel destinations to explore this spring.
But for now, I am packing up to head home for a belated Christmas with my very own family, and mentally preparing our New Year’s Eve dinner — another prime rib that will surely fit in my oven, and plenty of twice-baked potatoes for all who come to my table.
I wish you good luck and good food (that will always fit in your oven) in the coming year.
Best Twice-Baked Potatoes Recipe • A perfect partner for prime rib
These potatoes are versatile and forgiving with substitutions. You can omit the eggs, but they give the potato a creamier interior and a crispier exterior. Serves 4 as a whole potato and 8 with half a potato.
• 4 large baking potatoes
• 8 slices bacon, partially frozen, cut into thin strips
• 2 eggs separated, whites whipped
• 1 cup sour cream (or yogurt)
• ½ cup milk (or cream)
• ½ cup butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon white pepper
• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided (or Swiss or gouda)
• 8 green onions, sliced and divided
Rinse and dry potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake potatoes in the preheated oven until tender, about 1 hour, depending on the size of your potatoes. Set potatoes aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside.
Slice potatoes in half lengthwise — or leave whole, and slit, scoop the flesh and rice into a large bowl; save skins. Add sour cream, milk, butter, salt, pepper, and stir, when cool enough, add the egg yolks and blend well. Add 1/2 cup cheese, and 1/2 of the green onions to the potato mixture; stir until well blended and creamy. Gently fold in the egg whites.
Spoon (or pipe) the mixture into the potato skins; top each with remaining cheese, green onions, and bacon (at this point you can also chill the finished potato for 2-3 days, and cook at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour)
To serve immediately after stuffing, return potatoes to the preheated oven and continue baking until the cheese is melted, or about 30 minutes.
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