Is it just me or are there very few people who know how to make a really good baked potato? We recently were asked to dinner at a very nice restaurant, I ordered the special – a huge bone-in ribeye that looked like something you’d see plopped on the side of Fred Flintstone’s car that came with a “baked” potato. Not. Make no mistake, this thing was microwaved. The poor spud, its body all shriveled from a 300,000 megahertz carousel ride, had zero flavor and was undercooked in spots. It was embarrassing – not for me (I was just appalled) but shameful that this pricey eatery couldn’t pull off a proper baked potato (it’s not just a clever name! It’s a baked potato…hello!). I suppose they were relying so heavily on the whole side of beef on my platter to distract the eye from that pathetic starchy tuber. Not me, I take my potatoes seriously. So when the waiter asked if I wanted to box up my leftovers (read: next three meals), I instructed him to wrap up the beef but not the barely touched potato, thanks. And I probably did it (unintentionally) with my nose turned up slightly. I told you…I am a baked potato snob and often suffer for it.
Like the time I watched in horror as an acquaintance stabbed the four bakers that were lying on a rimmed sheet on her kitchen counter with some sort of potato nail (I suppose to help them cook faster) and then proceeded to wrap each one up in a double layer of aluminum foil (wha…?). My heart sank as I watched her slide the tortured little orbs into a 300 degree oven. There goes the crispy skin, I thought. If she had been a friend and it wasn’t the first time I had been invited to her house for dinner, I would have staged an intervention at this point.
Astonishing! And making the ultimate baked potato is one of the simplest things in the world! To achieve that matchless combination of potato perfection – crunchy on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside – you just need a hot oven, some olive oil and a little love in the form of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Let it cook for close to an hour and you’ll have the best darned baked potato you’ve ever had in your life, I promise.
The Stock Pot: Sensational Sides – Ultimate Baked Potato
- 4 Idaho russet baking potatoes
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- garlic powder
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, poke several deep holes all over the potato. Drizzle each potato with a light coating of olive oil and massage over the entire potato. Season each potato on all sides with some salt (about ½ teaspoon, depending on the size of the potato), some pepper (about ¼ teaspoon or so) and some garlic powder (about ¼ teaspoon). Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until very tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, about 45 minutes to an hour.
- When the potatoes have cooked, cut them down the middle and squeeze the ends slightly. Serve with desired toppings.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: Top a Potato Bar is a great party option. It’s a quick and clever way to whip up lunch or dinner for a bunch of friends and family. To round out the spread, include a big salad.
Product Purity: The russet potato’s low moisture and high starch content make it an excellent choice for baking.
Presentation: I was once served a baked potato with the toppings presented on the side in the pictured 4-sectioned plate. I loved it so much, the waitress asked the chef if I could take one home, with my promise of using it in a photograph. Here it is. How cute is that? Similar plates are available at kitchen specialty stores and home decor shops, like World Market, for your own picture-perfect presentation!