A Refined Alternative to Hasselback
The concept of barbecue over time has been able to earn and maintain a “lustful and corrupt” aura, so closely linked to its own being to determine at the same time its success and its limit. This is not just about cooked dishes, but also for everything else: from the rustic concreteness of the joint to the simplicity of the construction profile and the materials in the cooking tools. So if you think of the barbecue and you want to match for example a dessert, you will never go to a refined Creme Brulè but more likely to a sweet Pecan Pie. As always, however, the creative evolution tends if not to break down barriers, at least to fade boundaries. The Barbecue in the strict sense, the traditional Ribs and Pulled Pork one is increasingly rediscovering itself in a new Country Chic style, more inclined to enhance its incredible gastronomic potential in more challenging environments than the classic Backyard, while maintaining its own sincere and concrete soul.
Take side dishes, for example. I believe that what best expresses the true nature of the traditional barbecue is the Baked Beans. The best known and most affirmed exponent of the Country Chic evolution of side dishes could instead be the Hasselback Potaoes. Personally, however, I consider slightly better in terms of appeal a recipe little known in our parts, the Twice Baked Potatoes. They represent the thing the most similar to a refined and Chic potato gateau you can make in a grill but it is cooked inside the shell of the same potatoes from which the pulp is obtained, keeping so a full contact even with the Country side. “Twice Baked Potatoes” means “Potatoes cooked two times” because in a first phase they are softened in the smoker and in a second, emptied, filled again with a cream created with its contents and placed in cooking until giving it an inviting and golden external crust. And the cool thing is that on the recipe with which to create the cream you can indulge almost indefinitely. In our case I wanted to achieve something that deviates from the obvious combination of Cheddar and Bacon, ideally continuing that path of gastronomic evolution which was mentioned at the beginning.
On the cheese side I wanted to brush up what I personally consider the best Swiss product, the mistreated Gruyère. I use the original term Gruyère instead of the Italianization “Groviera” because too often in our country people mistakenly means with this name the cheese with holes, which instead is Emmental or Emmenthaler (“full of holes like a Gruviera” is one of our most common expressions). The reason is due to the fact that for a long time it was generically called “Groviera” for any type of cheese imported from neighboring Switzerland, ending up in order to tie the term indelibly to the most widespread type, that was the cheapest Emmental. So few know the Gruyère cheese and it is a real shame because it deserves to be discovered and valued. It is a hard-cooked or semi-hard cooked cheese, incredibly fragrant and aromatic. If you like Swiss fondue, you will probably like Gruyère because it usually contains it.
In accompaniment I wanted to combine a refined and no less fragrant South Tyrolean Speck, previously reduced to strips and slowly toasted until crunchy, for a matching with the Gruyère that for me has something magical. I spend two words finally on the Rub that I used to embellish the mixture of potatoes. I know Sucklebuster and his rub quite well, it is our sponsor and I had the opportunity to try them all long before they arrived in Italy. I consider them all excellent and our relationship was born starting from the quality of the product and not from the commercial agreement. Among the many there is one of recent introduction, which I can not really do without. It ‘s the 1836 that would be born for Prime Rib and the noble cuts of beef in general but I find that it has a truly infinite versatility of applications. Again, this did not betray my expectations. Depending on your taste, in this recipe the intensity of Gruyère and Speck could be sufficient even without adding the rub, especially if you do not seek particular intensity. Whatever your choice, if you happen in any case try it because it is really worth it.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
4 medium size oven potatoes
2 spoons of seeds oil
50 gr. of Butter
1/4 finely grounded yellow onion
200 gr. of Gruyère
10 cl. ab. of fresh Milk Cream
1 Egg yolk
4 spoons of grated Grana Padano cheese
80 gr. of Speck matches
2 teaspoons of Sucklebusters 1836 rub
All cooking takes place at 140° C. I used a WSM but also a kettle or a gas device will be fine. The total time required is about an hour and a half but may differ depending on the type but especially from the size of the potatoes you are going to use.
Twice Baked Potatoeswith Gruyère and Speck
Perform the operation on all the potatoes and then place them in indirect cooking in the kettle or in the center of the WSM grid already brought to temperature. I have not smoked in order not to further articulate the perceptions of a recipe already very wide of his own but if you like it you can do it.
You just have to wait now. In my case it took 50 minutes. There are no temperatures (or maybe there are but I prefer the tactile sensation): you will have to try the potatoes until you feel slightly soft, avoiding to get to the point where the skin brakes. Wait just for the moment when you feel you can work the pulp easily, no further.
You should see the skin starting to shrink slightly, highlighting the holes we had through the fork.
Now with a spoon completely remove the pulp from both the hat and the body of the potato. If cooking is correct you should not encounter any difficulty in doing so but the skin should not break under your pressure. Do not go light: the hat should be practically the only skin, the body a very thin layer just enough to keep the shape.
Now place the skin inside the body of the potato. This will give to the whole a stability of which you will be surprised, enough to allow you to easily repost the potatoes on the grill once you have filled them.
With a grater for Julienne, reduce the Gruyere to strips. In a bowl, add the butter cut into chunks to the pulp extracted from the potatoes and mix until you melt it completely. Add the Gruyère, the egg yolk, the finely chopped onion, the grated Grana cheese and the chopped browned Speck. Mix well until you get a homogeneous paste.
Finally drizzle the milk cream keeping on blending, to the extent necessary to make the dough creamy and rich but not liquid. You must sit comfortably on a spoon like a mashed potato to understand.
Reposition the potatoes on the grill and let the heat finish the potatoes and their stuffing. You will see that externally the filling will form an inviting crust rather quickly but you continue cooking until it becomes soft but compact enough. In my case it took about 30 minutes more. When cooked, decorate the surface with finely chopped chives.
Twice Baked Potatoes succeed in the difficult task of preserving their role as a side dish for all purposes, based on simple ingredients and procedures, very linked to intense flavors and a poor but extremely inviting appearance but at the same time giving the velvety feeling of eat a delicious potato gateau in a restaurant’s white ceramic cocotte. This variant based on Gruyère and Speck then has everything: flavor, taste, intensity, depth, aroma. Really a successful matching.
The Twice Baked potatoes brings for me the world of barbecue side dishes to the next level. What will be next?