Essentials: Potatoes Baked and Twice-Baked

Yesterday I was glad that Lucy alerted us to the existence of Totally Baked (something has been done to the Dining Section online, and now I am bad about seeing Food Stuff). Recently I was craving a baked potato on a night when I had no patience for cooking and no potatoes in the house, so I ran out to get one at a Hell’s Kitchen establishment that will remain nameless. It was gummy, hard in the middle, and totally disappointing. Now I have another spot to try.

A well-baked potato with the right toppings offers an amount of pleasure disproportionate to the raw ingredients cost, especially with a green salad on the side. It also involves very little active time and kitchen cleanup. For these reasons it was one of my favorite dinners senior year of college, when I was cooking for myself at a school not really equipped for independent eaters. I knew how to bake potatoes, roast vegetables, steam broccoli, whisk together a vinaigrette, and make beans and rice out of a box. Oh, and heat up a can of soup. It must have been a little monotonous, but in retrospect I think I ate very well.

Now when baked potatoes are on my menu I make extra for later to use as twice-baked potatoes, and recently I discovered a way to bake the hollowed-out skins that makes them almost as delicious as potato chips.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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Essentials: Potatoes Baked and Twice-Baked

About This Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 medium russet potatoes (2-2 1/2 pounds total), scrubbed and dried
  • Toppings: butter, grated cheese, salt, pepper, bacon, sour cream, chives
  • 2 baked potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 baked potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Procedures

  1. 1

    Preheat the oven to 400°F and make sure a rack is in the middle position. Prick each potato 4 or 5 times with a fork.

  2. 2

    When the oven is hot, put the potatoes right onto the middle rack. Bake for 1 hour (if your potatoes are especially large, bake for 1 hour and fifteen minutes). Sometimes I flip them over and move them about in the middle of cooking, but in my oven it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

  3. 3

    Remove the potatoes from the oven. As soon as you can handle them without hurting yourself, split each one down the middle and squeeze the ends towards the middle to fluff up the insides. (Nigel Slater says giving the whole potato a little karate chop will fluff the insides nicely and split it open at the same time, but I have never had success with this intriguing maneuver.) Top your potato as you like. I like plain butter, cheese, salt, and pepper, but if I had bacon, sour cream, and chives hanging around I would certainly add them.

  4. 4

    If you are saving the 2 extra potatoes for twice-baked, leave them whole and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, well wrapped or in Tupperware.

  5. 5

    Twice-Baked Potatoes

  6. 6

    - serves 2 -

  7. 7
  8. 8

    Obviously, you can double and probably triple this recipe if you have enough potatoes. The book recommends "baking" the potatoes in the microwave and oven, but I prefer to start with real baked potatoes. I have also made this recipe without buttermilk, without scallions, and/or substituting plain yogurt for sour cream. It’s still good.

  9. 9

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. While you wait for the oven to heat up, use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of each potato half into a bowl, leaving about 1/4 inches of flesh attached to the shell. Arrange the shells upright on a baking sheet and set them aside.

  10. 10

    Mash the potato flesh until smooth. Stir in the cheddar, sour cream, buttermilk, butter, and scallions and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  11. 11

    When the oven is hot, slip the sheet of shells in and bake for 10 minutes, until they are dry and slightly crisp. Remove the shells from the oven and increase the temperature to 500°F. Carefully spoon the potato mixture into the shells. Bake the stuffed potatoes until they are spotty brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving (this is the hardest step).

  12. 12

    Crisp Potato Skins

  13. 13

    - serves 4 -

  14. 14

    Adapted from Martha Stewart Living March 2008

  15. 15

    Preheat the oven to 450°F and put a rack in the highest position. While the oven heats, cut each potato in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch flesh attached to the shell. Save the flesh for some other use (fish cakes, twice-baked potato casseroles, plain old eating). Slice each potato shell in half again lengthwise to make 16 long wedges and put them on a baking sheet.

  16. 16

    Combine the oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and brush this mixture all over the potato wedges. Bake on the high rack until crisp and the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Season with more salt if desired.

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