Tailgate inspires warm memories of toasty spuds

My dad grew up on the side of a mountain in a self-described coal mining town called Colver, Pennsylvania.
He spoke of an enviable upbringing on 20 Row, a road that wound from Colver at the top of the hill down to the mine at the base. On that single street lived both of his grandmas, several aunts and uncles and a handful of cousins. Imagine a childhood during which a single sled ride took all morning and a backyard stretched for miles.
We admire many things about our Pennsylvania relatives, their ingenuity most of all. My grandmother tucked baked potatoes into the woolen mittens of her three children. The spuds kept their fingers warm on the way to school, and served as lunch at noon.
Molly and I channeled that bit of clever family history Sunday as we prepared for our own family tradition — the tailgate party.
Because the first rule of proper tailgating, from our perspective, is to find someone else to fire up the grill, our own contribution was the twice baked potato. Our host, Gregg Graycarek, supplied delicious tenderloin from a grill that is stored on site for the season. Genius, right?
Read on for our twice baked potato recipe. If you really want to enjoy the game, though, we suggest you simply tuck a couple of baked potatoes in your mittens before you head into the stadium. Think how warm your hands will stay and how good those taters will taste at halftime.
Tailgate Twice Baked Potatoes
12 medium potatoes, scrubbed, pricked and baked

Two cups shredded cheese
Four tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 large onion chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Baked the potatoes in a 375 degree oven for one hour. Slice lengthwise and scoop out the inside. Be sure to leave the skin intact. Put the scooped potato in a large mixing bowl and add 1 cup cheese, butter, cream, onion,salt and pepper. Mix with electric beater, while slowly adding milk. Line pans with potato skins. Scoop mashed potato mixture back into the skins. Sprinkle with the rest of the shredded cheese. Put the potatoes back into the oven until cheese melts, about 15 minutes.
Cover the hot pans with tin foil and place them in a cooler, which has been lined with a bath towel. Fold the towel over the pans and close the cooler. Potatoes will stay hot for a couple of hours.
Katherine and her boyfriend Santiago enjoy the tailgate party.
Here are our 12 baked potatoes waiting to be embellished.
Chopped the onions extra small because they won’t cook very long.
Scoop out the potato while it’s so hot it turns your fingernails red.
The guts go in the bowl and the skins go on the pan.
Basically, you’re just whipping up some mashed potatoes.
Add the butter.
Mash the potatoes. You can do this by hand.
Here’s how it looks before it’s all mashed.
Scoop it all back into the shells.
Sprinkle the cheese on top.
They look good enough to eat, but you still have to bake them.
Cover the pans with foil and put them in your cooler.
And here they are. Still nice and hot and ready to serve.

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