A baked potato is a nice side for many meals and their are different ways to cook them, depending on the final result you are looking for. For instance, you can slather them in olive oil and course sea salt, wrap them in foil and bake them until done. The skins will be soft and salty and wonderful.
Some people like to put their potatoes in a crock pot to cook all day, slow and steady. This can produce some pretty good potatoes and perfect if you are preparing a meal for a dozen folks and don’t want to mess with the potatoes as you are preparing the rest of the dinner.
A few people who lived through the depression still toss their potatoes into an oven, sans salt and oil, and bake them until they are hard and crusty. However, you can’t eat the peel as it is often as tough as shoe leather.
If you are a in a terrible hurry, you can also use a microwave, by pricking the surface of the skin to prevent the potato from exploding, cook on high for 3-5 minutes and then eating. But I don’t recommend this method because the microwave method removes all character from the potato once done. While quick and easy, this process produces a bland, scalding starch with no flavor at all.
My preferred way to serve a baked potato is neither quick or easy but results in compliments around the table. It wins high marks for flavor and presentation.
The twice baked potato is exactly what the name implies. Begin with your best spud, washed well. Put it into a 350 degree oven for at least an hour – perhaps longer. Ensuring the potato is fully cooked is critical to the success of this recipe.
Once cooked through, bring out the potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool for at least 20 minutes to make them easier to handle. The internal temperature of the tuber should still be hot.
Next, with a sharp knife, cut a large oval in the skin on the top of the spud and peel back the skin. With a small spoon, begin scraping out the inside potato, being sure not to puncture any of the skin on the body of the potato. Put the contents of the potato into a mixing bowl for later. When you are done, you should have a shell of potato skin.
Once you have completed this process with all the potatoes, you can put them on the cookie sheet and return them to the oven for 10 minutes to help dry out the shells and give them a better structure to hold the contents you are about to mix.
The internal portions of potato, already in your mixing bowl are ready for mixing. Like making mashed potatoes, you will add cream, butter, salt and pepper to achieve a thick consistency. Don’t mix it until there are no more lumps. They add character to the batter. Add sharp cheddar cheese, bacon bits (if you still eat meat), chives, a small amount of finely diced shallot, and then more cheese!
Spoon the wonderful mixture into the skin shells. Heap the potato blend until it is piled high. Cover in shredded sharp cheddar and return to the oven. As everything is cooked, you only need to make sure the potatoes are hot through and that the cheese on top is melted. If you are a master at the broiler, you can also put the potatoes on the bottom rack of the oven, allowing the broiler to “toast” the cheese on top.
Serve each potato on its own as a meal, or as a side dish for medium rare steak or tender pork loin. People won’t be able to stop talking about them.
Hint: As with boiled eggs, there is always one or two potatoes that have skins that break. It’s best to cook a couple extras. The potato fillings can be added to your mixing bowl and the skins can be tossed.
Be Brave & Eat Well!