It’s hard for carnivores to imagine life without bacon.
And unfortunately, most of the plant-based bacon products aren’t very good.
Trust me, I’ve tried them all!
Sweet Earth Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon is one of the newer products, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it adapted to my veggie variation of a delightful recipe by Marcus Samuelsson called “Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Stinky Cheese & Bacon” from Marcus Off Duty – The Recipes I Cook at Home.
Since reading Marcus’s autobiography Yes, Chef, Marcus has become my latest culinary hero. I’ve been cooking my way through three of his books, trying to adapt many of his delectable recipes to my vegetarian kitchen. Stuffed baked potatoes have always been a comfort food family favorite, and his combination of bacon, red onion, blue cheese, sour cream, and rosemary was enticing.
I’ve adapted Marcus’s original recipe, 86ed the bacon, and subbed four strips (half a package) of Sweet Earth Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon. Unlike my old standby, Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips (which has a lot of ingredients that I don’t recognize as food), Benevolent Bacon is vegan and seiten-based, containing organic ingredients like red beans, buckwheat groats, and maple syrup. While it would be hard to fool a carnivore if I served a few strips for breakfast alongside some scrambled eggs, once the strips were fried and finely minced into the filling for my stuffed potatoes, the Benevolent Bacon provided just the right hearty hint of meaty flavor.
In addition to using seiten bacon, I made other tweaks to Marcus’s recipe, adding fresh chives and parsley to the rosemary, increasing the amount of organic sour cream and butter (this was decidedly one of my non-vegan days!), reducing the amount of red onion, using gorgonzola instead of blue cheese, and adding mushroom flavored olive oil when I roasted the garlic.
My advice is to bake the potatoes and roast the garlic in advance so that lengthy step is out-of-the-way and the potatoes have plenty of time to cool so that you can easily remove the potato flesh, leaving your intact shells for stuffing. Try to avoid microwaving potatoes if you can – a real baked potato has a fluffy interior and a crisp skin. (In fact, here is a fascinating article about the science behind producing a really good baked potato from Cook’s Illustrated.) Using the advice from Cook’s Illustrated, I was able to shave 30 minutes off the baking time for the potatoes – which I used to prep all my other ingredients.
Here’s another view, minus the sour cream and gorgonzola topping, so that you have a better look at the bacon-y stuffing. If you happen to have any leftovers, this is the way I would store them in the fridge – without the topping.
It all added up to a delicious mid-week meal, along with fresh steamed asparagus and Quorn’s Garlic & Herb Chik’n Cutlets.
I’m going to be making these a lot!
- 6 large russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)
- 1 large garlic bulb, papery peel left on, but top removed
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I used mushroom flavored extra virgin olive oil for more oomph!)
- 4 slices Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, thawed
- 6-8 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
- ¾ cup organic sour cream (divided use)
- ¾ cup crumbled Gorgonzola (divided use)
- ½ medium red onion, finely minced
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed and finely minced
- 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper (alligator pepper is great!)
- Freshly ground Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Scrub the potatoes and prick them several times with a fork. Place them on a wire cooling rack inside a rimmed cookie sheet. Cut off the top of the garlic and put it on a double thickness of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with the olive oil, and bring the foil up around it, wrapping it tightly. Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes (and take the garlic out around 30 minutes.)
- While the potatoes and garlic are baking, use a non-stick pan or lightly oil a skillet and fry the Benevolent Bacon strips over medium heat (about 2 minutes on each side). Put a double thickness of paper towels on a plate, and let the strips cool. When fully cool, chop the bacon strips into small pieces.
- Once the potatoes and garlic are cooked (remember the garlic will cook more quickly), remove them from the oven and let cool. Please don't turn off the oven - just turn it down to 400 degrees.
- Squeeze each close of the toasted garlic out and set aside. Prep your other ingredients while the potatoes are cooling.
- Cut off the top third of each potato, and scrap all of the flesh into a large bowl, leaving a ¼" shell intact on both the tops and the bottom shell.
- Mash the potatoes well, and add the melted butter, followed by ½ cup sour cream, ½ cup gorgonzola, red onion, bacon pieces, garlic, rosemary, chives, parsley. cayenne, salt, and pepper.
- Stuff this delicious filling back into the potato shells (and tops, if you have enough filling).
- Bake the stuffed potatoes for 20-25 minutes. When they are done, spoon on a tablespoon of sour cream followed by a tablespoon of gorgonzola.
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