Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Chuckwagon: Baked Potatoes

I know, I know, I know.

Who needs a recipe for a baked potato, right? Don't they serve those at Wendy's?

Well, I think there is a need. The perfect baked potato can be quite elusive, simple yet just out or reach.

I think of baked potatoes like I think about fries: so much potential, but so often overlooked.

Why care so much about potatoes? Is it because I (for better or worse) am of Irish extraction? Perhaps, but people the world over enjoy potatoes because they are cheap, filling and full of all the good stuff that we need. Why do you think that they became such a staple in the diets of people the world over?

Anyway, I have tinkered with a few methods for making baked potatoes, and this is my favorite:

Ingredients
  • 2-4 medium to large Russet baking potatoes
  • Oil (olive, vegetable, canola, peanut, corn...anything but motor)
  • Salt (Kosher if you have it, table if you don't/don't care)

Method

  • Wash potatoes in cold water with a stiff bristled brush. Scrub them good, but don't strip the skins.
  • Take a fork and stab each potato deeply (really give those suckers a good jab) eight to twelve times, depending on the size of the spud. This helps steam to escape while cooking.
  • Dry the potatoes off
  • Coat each lightly in oil. The best way (but not the least messy) is to put some oil in your hand and rub them all over.
  • When each is oiled, place on an ungreased baking sheet
  • Salt the potatoes lightly
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1.5 hours (for two potatoes, 1 hour 15 minutes seems about perfect - alter with oven and number of potatoes.
  • When done, they should be crispy on the outside, yet squeeze easily and be soft inside.
  • To open, take a fork and stab a dotted line across half of the potato's top. Squeeze at both ends and it should pop open.

At this point, the world is your oyster. You have a perfectly baked potato with a crispy, delicious skin and a smooth, creamy interior.

Top with, well, basically anything. Sour cream, chives, butter, salt, pepper, HP sauce, chili, tuna, baked beans, ketchup, mayonnaise...basically anything edible will taste good on top of this perfectly baked potato.

Oh, and if anyone asks you, you can tell them (not exactly a lie) it is the method of an Irish cook who tried hundreds of ways before getting it just perfect.