Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through all 150 recipes in the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook and you’re invited to tag along. This time, we’re trying out an intriguing recipe from a forgotten cowgirl.
You’ll be forgiven for having no idea who Betty Jewel is. Her four year career in silent cinema yielded just eight pictures, four of them westerns. She performed opposite Viola Dana, Blanche Sweet, Tom Mix, Jack Holt and the up-and-coming Gary Cooper but few of her pictures are available to the general public.
There’s really not much more to say, except that fan magazines of the day did list her as a D.W. Griffith discovery. She did not appear in any of his films so it’s possible that he merely forwarded her name to the appropriate casting directors. And with that, the trail goes cold.
Well, except for the recipe. Betty Jewel had a short career in films but let’s see if she was more successful in the kitchen.
(This recipe seems to have little in common with the famous Crepes Suzette, which involves flambe and orange butter sauce. So, who is Suzette, Betty?)
Okay, let’s define the ingredients a little better. “Good-sized potatoes” could mean anything. Because I didn’t want to be waiting for them all night, I opted for the rounder, smaller russets and not those ginormous bakers. The potatoes were probably 3-4″ long and about 2.5″ in diameter. Hope this helps!
For cheese, I suppose any melting cheese will do. I used good Vermont sharp white cheddar but Gruyere, Muenster or a nice Havarti would be lovely as well. Just use a cheese that you like and melts well. I grated about a cup in total.
Bake the potatoes using your favorite method (you could even microwave them to save some time) and be sure to allow some time for them to cool down before the scooping.
I took the “top” of the potato to mean lengthwise and not the small end. If that makes no sense, here is a picture of where I cut and how much:
I used a steel spoon. I hope Betty forgives me. The task is not as hard as the cookbook seems to think, just leave about a quarter inch of potato around the sides and don’t break the skin. After scooping out the potato guts, I added half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and half a teaspoon of paprika to them and mashed it all together. (Be sure to get good sweet paprika as it adds a lovely flavor.)
Next, the potato shells were to be filled with a raw egg. You can crack the eggs in directly but if you are nervous, you can always break them into a small bowl or measuring cup first and then slide them into the potato shells.
Then gently spoon the potato mixture over the egg (you don’t want to pop the yolk), sprinkle the whole thing with cheese, place on a foil-lined and greased baking sheet and bake those suckers! I baked them at 400 degrees for 12 minutes but you will want to adjust this based on your elevation, oven temperature and how runny you like your eggs. Obviously, you will also want to adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.
The whole thing took longer than intended (I forgot to factor in the potato pre-scoop cooldown) and so my tasters were rarin’ to go. The potatoes that were cut open right away were quite liquid in the center with barely set yolks. (All tasters were #TeamRunnyYolk so no harm done.) I waited five minutes to cut open mine and the result was a classic poached egg with a soft white and a yolk that was thicker but still liquid.
Score: 4 out of 5. This recipe is absolutely fantastic, though a few tweaks could send it into the stratosphere. Next time, I will definitely add a bit of garlic and some milk and butter to the mashed potato mixture. (It was a bit dry and crumbly.) I think I will also mix half the cheese into the mixture and use the rest to brown on the top.
However, this recipe is a general winner. It’s a little fussy but pretty easy overall and the combination of the savory twice-baked potato and the creamy poached egg… Yum! I also loved William S. Hart’s recipe for an egg poached inside a summer squash. This whole poaching an egg inside a vegetable thing has got to come back in style, it’s brilliant!
The tasters were thrilled with this one and there were no leftovers. I would call this recipe a rousing success and definitely recommend that you give it a try. It just looks so darn impressive when you slice the potato in half and the yolk spills out.
Best of all, the recipe lends itself to variations. It can easily be made vegan by substituting dairy-free cheese and using one of those tasty, black salt-laced poached “egg” recipes. Add caramelized onions and Gruyere for a French onion soup-inspired potato. Kick things up with some cayenne and pepper jack. Go classic with bacon, chives and cheddar. Oh, I will definitely be making these again!