I love having people over, and I love hosting parties. I love everything to do with the hosting – planning, sending out invites, the prepping, and I don’t even mind the clearing up after everyone’s left too. There’s one thing I just hate doing though – preparing starters that entail deep-frying. Much as they are the easiest to dish up, I just abhor the thought of standing in front of the frying pan. Not my cup of tea. Uggghh! So when Nags suggested we all come up with ideas for savoury appetizers that would be easy to make in bulk (for about 50 people or more), it had me all excited. It was like she had leafed through my mind and decided to give me a chance to fix for my problem.
Nags had a couple of guidelines before we could dive headlong into the task. We could make the preps over a day or more ahead, but cooking or baking on final day had to be relatively quick. The savoury appetizer could be baked, deep-fried, pan-fried, steamed, all up to us. Only two conditions were that it had to be a savory appetizer, and fit for a party. The instant Nags gave out the theme, I thought of deviled eggs, but then it also struck me that many people don’t eat eggs. I needed something that would cater to everyone’s tastes. So what’s the most favourite base when it comes to party food? Of course, taters! Voila, deviled potatoes were born. Before we dive into the recipe, I must tell you: this is a really versatile recipe. Keep the potato jackets for a base, and you can pretty much make your own combos for the filling. Top with some grated mozzarella cheese and a fresh basil leaf, stick it in the oven for 8-10 minutes, and there you have it. Sounds like a breeze doesn’t it? It IS. What’s more, you can make all the prepping a day ahead, and just put it together on D-day with a snap of your fingers. Snap! Just like that.
Preparation Time (day ahead): 30 minutes
Preparation Time (D-day): 5 minutes
Oven Temperature: 200°C/400°F
Baking Time (D-day): 5-6 minutes
Yield: 10 portions
For the Potato Jackets:
- Potatoes – 5 nos, medium-sized; steamed with skin till firmly cooked
- Olive Oil – 2 tbsps
- Salt – to taste
- Black pepper powder – to taste
For the Filling:
- Onion – 1 no, medium-sized; finely chopped
- Button Mushrooms – 15-20 nos, cleaned and sliced
- Fresh Paneer – 1/3 to 1/2 cup, crumbled
- Oregano – 1 tsp
- Salt – to taste
For the Topping:
- Mozzarella Cheese – 1/2 cup, grated (use your discretion to up/down the cheese that goes over the little devils)
- Fresh Basil leaves – 10 nos, cleaned and patted dry on a kitchen towel (I didn’t have any, so I skipped them and topped with a tiny sprig of mint instead, and only once they were out of the oven)
On the day ahead:
- Cut the steamed potatoes into halves along the longer sides, so you have cups that will sit on their own and won’t wobble when set on a tray. Also, I like to leave the skin on. It forms a firm cover for the jacket.
- Scoop out the insides from each halved potato, leaving a 1/4-inch allowance on all sides. Allow the jackets to cool completely, and then store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
- Make the filling – In a wok, saute the onions till tender.
- Tip in the sliced mushrooms and saute till the mushrooms are cooked.
- Throw in the crumbled paneer, oregano and salt to taste. Stir to incorporate.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Store in the fridge if making a day or two ahead. If you are making it all at once, simply proceed further.
- Take out the potato jackets and filling from the fridge about a half hour before preparation time, so they both come to near room temperature.
- Mix the olive oil, salt and pepper powder. Brush the potato jackets all over generously with this mixture and set aside to marinate a bit, about 15 minutes. You could even do this while the jackets are coming to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F when the jackets are near marinated.
- Fill the jackets with the mushroom-paneer filling, top with grated mozzarella cheese and a basil leaf.
- Transfer filled and topped potato jackets onto a greased baking tray and bake for 5-6 minutes till the jackets start shriveling around the edges and the cheese starts to melt to a lovely gooey mass.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool 3-5 minutes. Serve hot.