Extra, Extra! Twice baked potato casserole

So, our good friend brought steaks over last night for dinner. It was kind of a potluck occasion. I made a side, my mother in law brought salad, and I made a Snickers trifle (since I was already making a huge one for the graduation party today).

Now, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I can’t have steak without some sort of potato, but suitNtie is kind of anti-potato (gasp, I know). Last time our friend brought steaks, you guys got the Kitchen’s pantry scalloped potatoes for a side. This time, I bring you twice baked potatoes… in a casserole. Sorry, the paparazzi didn’t work fast enough on this one, so no photos.  I made it the full size, but I think you could very easily halve it. We did ours in a 9×13 Pyrex pan and made it through almost half of it. It makes a good amount.

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Celebrations cookbook.

8 medium baking potatoes, about 4 pounds
1 (8-ounce) package low fat or fat free cream cheese, at room temperature (I basically won’t use anything  besides Philly)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded 2% sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 pint fat free sour cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
6 slices applewood bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled (I cook mine in the oven on a rack for optimal crispy-ness)

Pierce the potatoes and place on a baking pan. Bake the potatoes for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until very soft.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Peel and mash the potatoes in a large bowl with the butter (if you didn’t soften it ahead of time this will help since the potatoes will melt it slowly). Add the cream cheese, 1 cup of the Cheddar cheese and the sour cream. Stir well.  Then add the garlic, salt and pepper and stir again. Place the potatoes into the prepared dish and smooth out so the depth is even.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the potatoes for 30 to 35 minutes until hot. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup Cheddar cheese over the top of the casserole and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts.

Garnish with the chopped chives and crumbled bacon before serving.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.