I found the basic recipe for this in a cookbook years ago. I decided that I wanted something a little more flavorful and something that looks amazing! I have made these with just cheese and also with just butter and salt for people who could not have bacon and cheese. These are virtually endless in the possibilities!
4 large Idaho potatoes ( I get the ones in the bulk section, because I can usually find really big ones there)
2 packages of bacon ( use your favorite kind, but don’t use a super cheap brand)
2 packages of shredded cheese (you can use any kind of cheese you like, I usually use mind cheddar)
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup of milk ( I use whole milk because it makes the dish richer)
1 pinch of salt (go easy on the salt because you will be adding bacon and it is salty!)
2 dashes of black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the potatoes for an hour, your oven might take longer or shorter to bake the potatoes depending on how it cooks. While baking the potatoes cook the bacon on the stove top according to package directions. Drain it on paper towels and let it cool.
When the potatoes are soft enough to squeeze slightly and you can feel them give, remove them from the oven. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour to cool so you can handle them.
When potatoes are cool, slice them length wise, so you have two halves and they look like boats. Take a spoon and spoon out the middles being careful to leave about 1/2 inch along the sides. Spoon the middles into another bowl.
Set the potato skins aside and use the middles in the bowl. Add the butter and the milk to them and using a potato masher or fork make mashed potatoes. Don’t worry if they are not totally smooth, they are supposed to have some lumps.
Add one package of cheese and all but 4-5 slices of the bacon to the mashed potatoes. When adding bacon, cut or tear into smaller pieces. When you have all the cheese and bacon into the mashed potatoes, stir with a spoon, mixing well. ** I like to make this up to this point the night before. I just put this mixture and skins in the refrigerator to chill. It is easier for me to put these together using my hands when the mixture is cold. **
Using the mixture in the bowl, you can either spoon it into the skins or use your hands to fill them. You want the skins to be heaping with the mixture, so keep adding it to the skins until the mixture is used up. Turn the oven down or on to 350 degrees while you put these together.
When the skins are filled, use the cheese from the other package to sprinkle on top of the potatoes and top with the remaining bacon pieces. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is brown and bubbly on top. Serve right away.