There are few kitchen techniques as basic as baking a potato – yet I’ve been asked a handful of times over the past couple of weeks how to do it. What’s the best variety? Does it require a foil jacket?
A good baked potato can be a beautiful thing – as basic (yet infinitely more satisfying) as a bowl of popcorn with butter and salt. I dig out the fluffy innards, then butter the crispy skin and eat it like a thin, floppy piece of toast.
And sweet potatoes. I roast them when the oven is on, and keep them in the fridge to reheat for lunch. (If you happen to have a jar of bacon jam in the fridge? Ridiculous.)
There’s nothing like a good traditional russet – which also happens to be the cheapest of the potatoes. To bake, give it a wash, dry it off and rub it down with whatever cooking oil you generally use in your kitchen (canola, olive, sunflower) and sprinkle with salt, then roast directly on the oven rack at 350F or so for about an hour. A sweet potato will take less time to cook and wind up deliciously caramelized inside, with thin skin that separates itself from the flesh, making it easy to peel off with your fingers if you’re after mashed potatoes or something to add to soup. Bonus: you can roast potatoes while the oven is on for other things, and have a head start on lunch or dinner.
Chili baked potatoes were a staple of my teenagehood, and these days I’m discovering how well suited they are as a vehicle for leftovers – imagine the last of the butter chicken, spooned over a baked potato? I was also imagining how much I love the inside of a potato-pea samosa, and how seldom I actually make the real thing, and it occurred to me how well that combination of ingredients would do reassembled and piled back into a baked potato shell.