The classic baked potato is a crispy-skinned long russet. Nice, but it's hardly the only option. Bill Leritz, owner of Fox Hill Farm in Upstate New York, bakes the delicious heirloom potatoes that he grows. His Estimas—yellow-fleshed potatoes about the size of a golfball—make great baked potatoes. So do German Butterballs and Carolas, as do the local russets I've been finding in my farmers' market, little ones, just three inches long. Leritz is up-front about the way he cooks them. "Aw," he told me, "I just put them in the oven. If you have a good potato, why get fancy?" He's right. This method will provide good baked potatoes with crispy skins.
What are the things you shouldn't do? Don't wrap the potatoes in foil, don't rub the skins with oil or prick them until they're cooked halfway, don't crowd the potatoes or put them on a baking sheet and never bake a potato in the microwave.
Heat the oven to 350 or 400 degrees.
Scrub the potatoes and dry them well. Place the potatoes in the center of the oven, directly on the rack, and bake them until they are tender. You test this by squeezing: if you leave an indentation, the potato is done. Large russets will take 60 to 70 minutes; smaller Butterballs may be done in 30 minutes. Now, this is important: halfway through the baking time, prick the skins allover with a fork to let the steam escape. just reach in and grab each potato with a pot holder. If you're a diligent type, you can turn the potato over when you put it back on the rack.
Massage the finished potatoes and put them on a platter. Serve with plenty of butter and sour cream and salt and pepper on the table.
When you eat a baked potato, what you end up doing more often than not is mashing it with your fork as you eat to break up the large chunks. For a fluffy potato, try Molly's method.
As you take a baked potato out of the oven, hold it in a folded towel or two clean pot holders and massage it. Roll firmly but gently-just like a good massage- between your hands to break up the flesh without cracking the skin. Then place the potato on the plate, cut a cross in the skin, and pinch, pushing the flesh up and out.
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by Roy Finamore with Molly Stevens
Houghton Mifflin Books
Publication date: October, 2001
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created January 2002
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