I am in desperate need of some comfort food this week. Just wait ’til you hear what happened late last week. It is a doozy (and explains why I haven’t been posting on my regular schedule this week. You’ll understand in a minute).
On Thursday afternoon, I was home with the baby and dogs. I heard a crazy screeching noise outside, like tires in a drag race (not that I know anything about actual drag racing. I’m solely going off of the Fast and the Furious franchise here). I live on a stand-alone court, not in a neighborhood or high-traffic area. Think: VERY QUIET, SECLUDED STREET. So drag racing seemed like a rather bizarre occurrence.
Within a second or two of my initial confusion, I heard what sounded like a loud explosion and felt my house shake. The baby immediately began crying and the dogs started barking. I was in my family room, and I sprinted to the laundry room/garage side of the house, from where the noise had come. My mind was racing and my heart was basically in my mouth. I peeked into our laundry room to see that the wall/doorway into our garage was cracked and broken and that smoke was filling the garage.
The next thing I know, I’m running through the house and scooping the baby and my phone up off the floor, panic almost suffocating me. I somehow managed to secure the dogs in the room furthest from the garage. I also managed to dialed 9-1-1 as I ran out of the house. The next hour is kind of a blur. One thing I know is certain: that 9-1-1 call was one of those “OMG, listen to how hysterical this woman is” calls. The dispatcher probably laughed later.
Long story short: a neighbor was driving way too fast on our small, quiet street when she lost control and literally DROVE INTO OUR HOUSE. Yup. It was as shocking as it sounds. I went into mama-bear mode and kind of don’t remember a lot of the details. It was sheer panic.
Now that I’ve had a few days to process this, I find myself doing a lot of “what if” thinking…what if I had been in the garage, loading the baby into the car. What if I had been walking the baby or dogs on the street. What if my car hadn’t been parked in the garage to absorb most of the impact. All of the “what if’s” make me shudder. I consider ourselves extremely lucky in a very unlucky situation. No one was hurt. My car was totaled, and we have a few months of structural damage repairs to take place on our house….but all in all, no one was hurt. That’s all that matters.
Needless to say, I haven’t been sleeping all that well since this happened. We’re embroiled in a lot of back and forth with insurance companies, and the stress of that combined with the anxiety of the “what if’s” has made for long, sleepless nights. Hence, the need for comfort food (and an extra espresso in the afternoons and a couple glasses of wine in the evenings). You all know by now that buffalo chicken is not only one of my most favorite flavors in the world (#redundant), but it something I turn to when I need good ol’ yummy comfort that just doesn’t take a lot of time. I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals, and these loaded baked potatoes were a home-run experiment.
The great thing about this recipe is that it isn’t rocket science. Anyone can bake a potato, right? The buffalo chicken filling is easy too. The only catch? Baking a potato can take up to an hour, and I know that many of us often don’t have an hour of downtime in the evenings to wait for our spuds. My solution? I’ll bake half a dozen potatoes on a Sunday night, let them cool completely, and then keep them wrapped in tin foil in the fridge. All that’s required later in the week is filling those babies with the buffalo chicken goodness and warming them up. Easy. Serve them with a light salad on the side and you’re golden.
I’d also like to take a moment to say that these are a fantastic football snack. Make them in smaller potatoes and serve them as buffalo chicken potato skins! Or just serve them in their larger beast form. People love a loaded baked potato. People love buffalo chicken. These are pretty much guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
Or if you’re in need of a hearty, DELICIOUS, and easy meal busting with comfort during a busy week…these are for you. Meals like this have been a lifesaver ever since having the baby (will I ever stop saying that? haha)…and this past week has been no exception…to say the least.
For the Potatoes:
- 4 large Russet potatoes, pricked with a fork
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the Buffalo Chicken Filling:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ½–1 cup buffalo hot sauce (depends on your heat preference)
- ¼ cup bleu cheese dressing
- ¼ cup ranch dressing
- 1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Additional Toppings (all optional):
- Bleu cheese crumbles
- Scallions, chopped
- Fresh cilantro, chives, or parsley, chopped
- Additional bleu cheese/ranch dressing or buffalo sauce, for drizzling
For the Potatoes:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the oil over the outside of the pricked potatoes and liberally season with salt and pepper.
- Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack (I place a piece of tin foil on the rack below to catch any drippings) and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until tender.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly and then make an incision lengthwise in each to create a pocket (depending on the size of your potatoes, you may want to simply halve them. I was working with medium-sized potatoes, and that’s what I ended up doing). Squeeze gently so the inside of the potato is exposed. Using a fork, fluff up the insides of the potato and scoop into a large mixing bowl. Add a pat of butter and stir until mixed. Set aside.
For the Chicken Filling:
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then add to the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Shred or chop the chicken and place in the bowl with the potato innards. Stir in the buffalo sauce and dressings and mix until everything is well combined. Stir in half of the shredded cheese and cooked bacon. Taste and adjust the buffalo sauce, if needed.
- Place the split potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Fill each one with the buffalo chicken filling and top with the remaining shredded cheese and bacon. Return the potatoes to the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling is warmed through.
- Garnish the stuffed potatoes with bleu cheese crumbles, scallions, herbs, and a drizzle of additional dressing or buffalo sauce. Serve immediately.