Go Jason! Chili-Stuffed Potatoes

I love chili, and I love baked potatoes. Combined, I love them even more. And that’s why I’m a little disappointed that about my weekend plans.

You see, I plan on heading west to do a little bird hunting with my dogs. That’s not what’s so disconcerting. It’s the fact I’ll be missing the Friday night (Nov. 20)  fundraiser for Jason Smith, who was injured outside Ralph Engelstad Arena after a UND hockey game in mid-October.

Jason’s mom and dad, Wilma and John Smith, are old friends of mine. I’ve know them almost as long as Grand Forks/East Grand Forks has been my home, about 35 years.

On Friday night, they’ve scheduled a fundraiser — featuring chili and a baked potato bar —for Jason from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Eagles Club in East Grand Forks. (There also is an account for donations that has been set up in Jason’s name at U.S. Bank in Grand Forks.) Wilma had asked me to serve chili at the event, but I’d already planned my trip.

But for those of you who are free and have a hankering for chili and baked potatoes like me, head over there for some tasty food and offer Jason some encouragment.

And for those who can’t make it, here’s a recipe for chili-stuffed potato skins. I’m hoping to try it after my hunting trip. Some jumbo Pontiacs that another friend (Roger Peterson) gave ought to fit the bill nicely. 

Chili-Stuffed Potato Skins
4 large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced jarred jalapeno peppers
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
14-ounce can refried beans
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes, then pierce each several times with a fork. Microwave on high for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Timing will vary by microwave.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the olive oil, garlic, onion and jalapenos. Saute until the onion just begins to get tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and saute until browned, about another 5 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes and refried beans, then mix well and reduce heat to low. Bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, then cover and reduce heat to just keep warm.
Carefully cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scoop out the insides and place them in a large bowl. Leave about ¼ to ½ inch of potato all around the skin. Arrange the potato skins on a baking sheet. Set aside.
To the bowl of potatoes, add 1 cup of the Cheddar cheese, the ricotta and milk. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Fill the potato skins almost to overflowing with the meat and bean mixture. Carefully spoon a bit of the potato and cheese mixture over the meat. Sprinkle each with some of the remaining Cheddar.
Bake until the cheese melts and the mashed potato topping just begins to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 418 calories, 138 calories from fat, 15 grams fat (7 grams saturated, no trans), 60 milligrams cholesterol, 46 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 7 grams fiber, 558 milligrams sodium.