Cheesy Baked Potato Casserole

4 lb. russet potatoes (about 8 medium), scrubbed

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil or bacon grease

1 Tbsp. salt

1½ tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more

1 pound home-made bacon bits (buy them here)

12 oz. sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups)

4 oz. Chèvre cheese, cut into ½” pieces (buy it here)

1¼ cups heavy cream

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces

⅓ cup sour cream

1¼ cups finely chopped scallions (from about 1 bunch), plus more thinly sliced for topping

1 tsp. garlic salt (buy it here)

6 cups lard (optional; for frying potato skins)(buy it here)

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375°. Peel 4 lb. russet potatoes (about 8 medium), scrubbed. Save the peels if you want to make crispy potato skins (see below). Cut your potatoes into small, one inch pieces and spread on a greased (with olive oil or bacon grease), rimmed baking sheet. Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until tender enough to be pierced with a fork.

Step 2

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and cut into one inch pieces. Place on a paper towel to cool.

Step 3

When cooked, transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and add the bacon, grated cheese, chèvre (cut into small pieces), heavy cream, butter, sour cream, scallions, and garlic salt. Using a potato masher, mash the ingredients together until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 4

Transfer potato mixture to a large ovenproof twelve inch skillet, or 13×9″ baking dish, spread into an even layer, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until top is golden brown, 30–40 minutes.

Step 5

If making the crisped potato skins: place potato peels in a bowl and pour in cold water to cover. Soak 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Step 6

Heat 4 inches of lard in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot to 350°. Working in several batches, fry potato skins until crisp and golden brown, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer potato skins to a wire rack set inside another rimmed baking sheet to drain and immediately season with salt. Let cool.

Step 7

Top casserole with diced scallions and crisp potato skins just before serving.

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