Growing up, we didn’t have some of the “modern” conveniences we all take for granted today – homes didn’t come with built-in appliances such as microwaves and dishwashers. I remember our first dishwasher. It sat in the corner of the kitchen, and you wheeled the monster over to the sink, hooked it up and turned it on. Those hose connections had better be tight, or more than just the dishes got washed. Mom’s was Avocado Green. Everything in our kitchen was either Burnt Orange or Avocado Green. I mean OMG what a sight!
Needless to say, growing up potatoes were baked – as it cooked in a hot oven for an hour or more. Then along came the micro wave. You can do a baked potatoes in about 10 minutes. But have you noticed, it’s really not the same potato at all – something gets lost in translation. Sometimes “old-fashioned” is the better way. It’s like the difference between a Roast Beef Dinner with mashed potatoes and peas and a TV dinner with the same offerings. Not the same thing at all.
I will admit, there are times when I do use a microwave to “speed” up the process. Sometimes I start fried potatoes in the microwave, then finish them off in a skillet. Now I know there are cooks out there who swear by their microwave. And my hat’s off to them – they have mastered a form of cooking that completely escapes me. While there are exceptions, my microwave is used primarily to heat leftovers or warm a cup of coffee. Which is why I don’t mind that the microwave sits on a shelf in the garage (my auxiliary kitchen) rather than taking up valuable space in the “main” kitchen.
The best part about a baked potato is that you can top them any way you like. Cheese – no cheese – lots of butter, sour cream, chives – whatever. Baked potatoes can even become a meal if you like. Have you ever had a baked potato at BJ’s Brewery and Restaurant? You can get a potato with everything but the kitchen sink! But that’s a post for another day – the baked potato I’m talking about is the one you’ll serve next to a perfectly grilled steak.
The first thing you have to accept is that the potato is going to take time. If you wrap it in foil before baking, it’s going to take even longer, so plan to wrap the potatoes at the end rather than the beginning. For that steakhouse presentation, get some of those cute little metal cups for all the various toppings. Wal-Mart has them for about fifty cents each. (And those little cups are awesome if you pre-measure seasonings and such when cooking – I like to line them up and add whatever whenever it’s called for – makes for handy cooking when I’ve got a lot going on at once).
Old-Fashioned Baked Potatoes with the Works
4 Large Baking Potatoes, washed
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1/2 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
2-3 Slices Bacon, Fried Crisp & Crumbled
Preheat oven to 400-degrees.
Wash potatoes, pat dry and rub skin with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Cut a small X in the middle of the potato on one side to allow steam to vent.
Place potatoes in the oven directly on the rack and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon size. (To see if the potatoes are cooked, remove largest potato from oven, and squeeze. Potatoes are done when there is no resistance.) Turn off heat, wrap potatoes in foil and leave potatoes in the oven until ready to serve.
While potatoes are baking, fry bacon crisp. Crumble and set aside.
To serve, unwrap potatoes most of the way, leaving foil on lower half. Press ends inward so potato “pops” open. Fluff potato with a fork, plate and serve with individual cups for garnishings: Butter, sour cream, chopped chives or green onions and bacon bits.
Have salt and pepper on the table for those who wish to use it.