Are you looking for something different for dinner on these cooler nights? Something that your kids will love and your partner won’t balk at? Consider the humble baked potato made fabulous by a topping bar that you curate yourself.
Baked potatoes are just about the perfect meal, as they are a vehicle for all sorts of flavors and textures. If you look inside your fridge right now I’ll bet you have leftovers in little containers. Perhaps ground meat that didn’t make it into tacos. Marinara sauce that was left out of spaghetti. A mishmash of vegetables that with a little quick sautee in garlic, would be rendered extra delicious. And cheese! Glorious cheese!
Let me help you make dinner fun again! Get yourself some russet potatoes, one per person, and bake them in the oven. Now grab your leftover odds and ends, cheese, condiments, herbs, whatever you can get your hands on set up these ingredients as toppings for the baked potato. You may want to “theme” your baked potato bar, perhaps Italian or Mexican. Or challenge your kids to come up with their own creation and name it. If you have a crowd coming over for an impromptu dinner then this is a great way to feed them or do a potluck. In that case, get a bag of russets and prep them based on the recipe below while your guests line up their potluck toppings on the bar.
- 4 medium russet potatoes (about 7 ounces each)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 ounces grated cheese (about 1 cup), such as sharp cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, or blue
- 1/2 to 1 cup cooked vegetables, such as canned green chiles, steamed broccoli, sautéed peppers
- 2 tablespoons chopped garnishes, such as cilantro, raw or pickled red onion, or cooked bacon bits
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked protein, such as chili beans, sausage, pulled pork, or shredded chicken
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
- Scrub 4 medium russet potatoes under running water with a vegetable brush. Dry with a kitchen towel. Prick each potato all over with a fork. Use your hands to rub 1 teaspoon olive oil over all the potatoes. Season all over with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
- Place potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake until knife tender, 50 to 60 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, cut 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into 4 pieces. Prepare toppings that you would like to include in your bar: grate cheese, prep and cook vegetables and proteins, and chop garnishes. Warm any proteins or sauces right before serving.
- Carefully remove the potatoes from the oven. Split each potato lengthwise with a knife. Use a kitchen towel to carefully push the two ends of the potato towards each other, exposing and fluffing the flesh. Place a piece of butter on each potato. Season the potatoes with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Add toppings as desired!
If you have leftovers, place the potatoes in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat directly on the oven rack in a 325°F oven until warmed through.
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