The Baked Potato

This series is a collection of recipes called “The Church Potluck

Growing up, my favorite place to eat out was a certain chain steak house named after a desert region in an Oceanian country that’s also its own continent . . . you can guess the one. Anyway, my third favorite item on the menu – beside the steak and the battered, deep–fried  onion – was the potato. I had never had a potato with salty crispy skin. I had never had a baked potato so fluffy. I didn’t even know what a chive was. But there they were, springing up like a grassy field on my potato . . .

For years, I wondered how to bake the perfect potato, a potato just like the ones I treasured at that restaurant. But which potato? There are so many! Do I wrap it foil?  I soon found that’s a recipe for slimy skin and soggy flesh. Well, as has been the case for so many of my culinary quandaries – Alton Brown came to my rescue. This is his potato. I’m just the messenger (with a few slight changes for personal preference). And I had the great privilege of cooking 110 of these monsters for our church membership celebration back on August 27.

Here’s how.

Ingredients

  • 1 russet potato*
  • oil to coat**
  • kosher salt

*Russets have the right kind of starch that yields a light, fluffy potato when cooked. They’re perfect for mashing and baking. 

**I use regular olive oil for flavor (do not use extra virgin as it might burn and would be a waste since most of the complex flavors would cook away). If you prefer, a flavor-nuetral oil like canola or vegetable would work just fine.

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Thoroughly wash potato with cold, running water. Scrub with hands or a brush.
  • Pat potato dry.
  • With a fork, poke 3 holes on four sides for 12 holes total.*
  • Place potato in a bowl and coat lightly with oil.
  • Sprinkle potato liberally with kosher salt.
  • Line a sheet pan with foil and place it on the rack immediately below where the potato will be placed (to catch drippings).
  • Place potato directly on to the center rack of the oven above the sheet pan. DO NOT FOIL THE POTATO!**
  • Cook for 1 hour or until skin crisps and flesh is soft.
  • Keep whole until serving. Then slice open with a knife, and cut a grid into the flesh of the potato to allow butter/toppings*** to melt/fall into the flesh of the potato.

*The holes will allow steam to escape as the potato cooks. This is more about the texture of the final product than it is keeping the potato from . . . uh . . . exploding.

**The only way toward crispy skin is to keep airflow around the potato. This is why it’s placed directly on the rack. Foil not only blocks out the hot air, it keeps in moisture which makes the potato soggy.

***My favorite combo is butter, cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and chives. 

 

 

 

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