Back in November, my friends and I entered a tailgating competition for our Williams-Amherst Homecoming festivities. It’s our senior year so we had to go all out, staying in and slaving the entire night before when most people were out for pre-game festivities, so we could serve up about 13 different dishes—from kabobs and mini buffalo chicken pockets to crab cakes and stuffed mushrooms. One of the fastest moving dishes was my housemate Anna’s potato skins—no one could resist the crispy skins filled with gooey cheese and salty bits of crispy bacon. In The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics, the fairy godmothers over at Martha Stewart have waved their magical wands and classed up this bar-food favorite, transforming it from a college kid snack into its glammed-up Cinderella version—potato skins with pancetta and mixed herbs. As the Susan Lucci of the tailgating competition, we were unfairly snubbed for first place—maybe because we didn’t have pancetta, but mostly because we forgot the Kobe sliders with foie gras and black truffles back at the house.
- 8 small to medium russet potatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound pancetta, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme
- 16 ounces white and/or yellow sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
- 8 ounces fontina cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet, and rub with the oil. Bake until tender when pierced with a paring knife, 55-60 minutes. Remove from the oven; let stand until cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Cut each potato in half lengthwise, and use a small spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving about ¼-inch border all around. Reserve the insides for another use. Slice each potato shell in half again lengthwise for a total of 32 wedges.
In a medium skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just starting to turn brown and crisp, 9-10 minutes. Remove from heat; use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to drain on paper towels. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Brush each potato wedge with butter; sprinkle with herb mixture. Cover each wedge with ½ teaspoon of pancetta and a little more herb mixture. Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar and the fontina cheese over the tops.
Bake until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are heated through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven; serve hot.