Life is short, so let's not beat around the tuber:
That is going to happen. To a potato.
The stuff-your-own baked potato dinner is a classic cheap-eating standby, and for good reason. These big, beautiful russets were snagged on sale, three pounds for a measly buck. But, instead of the usual Cheddar or butter or inexplicably costly bits of desiccated bacon-food, let's do something a bit saucier, a bit unexpected, a bit Cubano. I must emphasize bit, here. Let's call it Cubanesque, or as Cuban as one can get without a giant ham hock and some good rum and hours of simmering time.
But before we get to the black beans and caramelized onions and lime and pickled jalapenos, let's get these tubers in the oven.
For the perfect baked potato, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over your (very, very well-scrubbed) potatoes and...
...sprinkle with several shakes of coarse salt and toss well to coat. Before popping the spuds into a 400 degree oven, you can pierce the top of each once or twice with a fork. I've read that this isn't actually necessary, but then I've also read a Laura Ingalls Wilder story in which Almonzo gets a face-full of exploding hot potato. So, two things: 1. just poke the potatoes, better safe than sorry and 2. the knowledge you gain as an eight-year-old is with you forever.
Just plunk the potatoes right on the oven rack--no foil, no pan--four about forty-five minutes to an hour. While that is at work, let's assemble toppings!
We need sour cream, and in this case I'm strongly suggesting you look for crema agria. At my grocery store, this stuff is the exact same price as the regular sour cream, but it is a thicker, creamier, infinitely tangier version of sour cream. Plus? PROBIOTIC CULTURES.
I like to make a little sauce by thinning out a cup of crema with the juice of half a lime, but you certainly don't have to.
I decided to go for kind of a green and white look, so also included...
...limes, sliced scallions (I would have rather used cilantro, but already had scallions in the fridge, all waiting and paid for)...
...pickled jalapenos (which I LOVE in Cuban pork sandwiches, because they add that balanced sweet, tangy, slightly spicy element that cuts through richness like a little, pickled knife)...
... and crumbled or shredded cheese. I used cojita, which is a salty, robust, crumbly Mexican cheese, somewhere in the ballpark of feta. (Again: this is a score from the Discount Cheese Basket. I'm shameless, really.) You can easily substitute feta, but cojita is its own kind of cheese excitement and worth a try sometime.
And, lastly, let's not forget the sauce. For the pallete and theme, I went with my beloved salsa picante, which is basically a pureed version of those pickled jalapenos up there. It is really well-balanced (not too spicy, nicely vinegar-y, slightly sweet) and super cheap. Look for it on the Latin food aisle or at a specialty market. It lasts forever in the fridge, goes a very long way, and costs less than two dollars a bottle.
During the last fifteen minutes of potato-baking time,s let's make some bean! First, throw one sliced sweet onion into a large, hot, nonstick skillet with a little vegetable oil. Sweat the onions over high heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently, and then reduce the heat to medium and just let them hang out to caramelize.
Meanwhile, drain two cans of black beans; rinse well.
After the onions have developed good, deep color (about seven minutes), you can loosen them up and deglaze the pan with a little liquid. Secret trashy ingredient confession time: I used Coca-Cola. I did. But, honestly, cola kind of works with onions and black beans and I'm not going to apologize. (No, I'm sorry.) You could also use: sherry, rum, chicken stock, or water. Just a few tablespoons, enough to make things a bit saucier. Add the beans, toss gently, and heat until the beans are warmed through and the liquid thickens, just a few minutes. Don't forget to taste the beans and season with a little salt if needed.
Potatoes are done! Remove them from the oven when they are sizzling and crisp on the outside but gently yielding to a squeeze. The contrast of crispy outside/creamy interior is really the Magic of Potato, right?
Now, for stuffing purposes, make a little length-wise slit on top of the potato, grip each end with tongs, and...
...give the tongs a little squeeze. Perfect potato pocket! For pumping! Full of potables!
Fill each potato with several large spoonfuls of beans. (You can see that I've placed my potato on a plate artfully dotted with salsa picante, as if I'm eating in some chi-chi restaurant that serves baked potatoes as haute cuisine. This is my version of Recession Fun.) Collect all the bean-stuffed potatoes on a platter and let your diners add their own toppings.
(Aaaand...sleep. Who can stay away with a gullet full of delicious starchy potato? Goodnight!)