Perfect Potatoes

"Frieslander" potatoes
I must admit, I don't get into Thanksgiving quite as much as I do Halloween. Not really at all, actually. Aside from the turkey and the cranberry sauce, what do you have? Stuffing, squash, corn, candied yams, pumpkin pie...starch, starch and more starch.  No wonder you always feel fat when the meal is done.  One popular Thanksgiving-day starch that I will always support, however, is the potato.

You should always have a sack of potatoes in your kitchen.  Not only are they a reliable, staple side-dish, but they also last for ages.  [Although, not quite for 3.5+ months as a certain significant other of mine had to learn the hard way]  There's also about a million and a half wonderful ways that you can prepare a potato, so they'll never get boring.  And while I would love to test and share every single one of them, for the sake of this blog and this month's theme, I'll start by covering some potato side-dish basics that have been a regular part of my meal rotation since I first found myself in my own kitchen two years ago.

And so I begin with how to
make the perfect baked potato:

- olive oil
- salt
- butter/margarine
- works best with:
ordinary brown/Russet potatoes, the bigger the better!

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C
2.  Wash the potatoes with a brush or the scrubbing side of a sponge, being careful not to scrape away the skin.  Then, use a teaspoon to dig out any big eyes or knots.
3.  Stab each potato numerous times with a fork or knife and lightly dry them with a paper towel.
4.  Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and dip each potato into the oil and roll it around a bit.  Then, sprinkle salt all over the potato.
*I find the most effective way to do this is not to be afraid of getting messy.  After dipping the potato in oil, I pick it up, smear the oil around with my hand and then hold the potato over the sink while I sprinkle salt on it.  I then put each one straight in the oven as I go...this can actually be pretty efficient if you manage to do the dipping and oiling with one hand and salting & oven door operating with the other.

5.  Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack with an aluminium foil-wrapped cookie sheet or drip pan underneath.
6.  Bake for about an hour, depending on the size of the potatoes.  The best way to know that the potatoes are done is that the skin will get crispy and puffed and sticking a fork in them should be as easy as butter.
7.  Slice each potato open either with a knife or by stabbing a line across the middle with a fork and pressing the sides.  Be careful because the potatoes will be hot- I usually handle them with a paper towel until they're ready to eat.

8.  While the potato is still hot, use a fork to gently break up the insides and plop your desired mound of butter on top.  This way, you mix a great and subtle buttery taste right in with the potato.
9.  Top with any exciting array of your
favorite toppings.
10.  Enjoy!

  • Don't be fooled into thinking this is a time-consuming task.  So long as you don't mind sitting back and relaxing while the potatoes cook, baked potatoes are pretty simple.
  • If you have it, sea salt makes for the ideal salt coating.

  • Microwaving.  It can speed up the process, and is an unfortunate necessity for the oven-deprived, but I don't recommend it.  I also can't give proper instructions because microwaving a potato is a fine art which depends heavily on the microwave and the potato at hand.  If you dare to microwave, though, stay true to the fork-poking test and do not cut the potato open until you're certain it's cooked.  A cut potato will never finish cooking in the microwave.
  • Steaming.  My dearest and most recent roommate somehow manages to live both without an oven AND a microwave.  And this did not bode well the day I absent-mindedly set out to make baked potatoes with dinner.  What I learned that day is that boiling a pot of water with the potato in a steamer basket or on top of a steamer tray for about an hour makes for a decently cooked potato. 
Happy Cooking! 
Kid's Mr. Potatohead Version 2.0 - 0920200911661

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