The potatoes become even more full of flavor when they are baked and stuffed with walnuts, smoky bacon and sharp cheddar. There is something about the walnuts and potatoes that makes for the perfect combination. A great marriage of earthy and rich nutty notes. This is a tasty and belly-warming appetizer for snacking and could also easily double as a side dish for meat or fish. Remember that potato cooking times may vary.
2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Cook the potatoes: Toss the potatoes with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and season with salt to taste. Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet and place in the center of the oven. Cook the potatoes until completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 40-45 minutes.
Stuff the potatoes: Split the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the flesh. Arrange the potato halves on a baking sheet. Mash the potato flesh in a medium bowl with a potato masher. Stir in ¼ cup cheddar cheese, cream, salt and ¾ cup walnuts. Taste for seasoning. The walnuts are a great textural contrast from the potato. Spoon the filling back into each potato half and top with the rest of the cheddar cheese. Bake until the cheese browns and the potatoes are hot in the center, about 15-20 minutes.
Cook the bacon: Meanwhile, place the bacon in a medium skillet with ¼ cup water. Bring the water to a simmer and cook the bacon over medium heat until it completely evaporates and the bacon gets crispy, 12-15 minutes. Set aside.
Make the topping: In a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, lemon zest, remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt, tomatoes, parsley and the remaining ½ cup walnuts. Taste for seasoning. Top each potato with the bacon, a drizzle of the bacon grease and then the topping. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.