So, I hear that some large men in tights are going to be chasing a pointy ball around a grid-ironed field in a couple of weeks. Or at least, that seems to be what is going on in between the important parts: the commercials. If you, like most of America, are planning to gather with friends, watch commercials, keep a weather eye peeled for wardrobe malfunctions, and occasionally attest loudly that the team closest to your geographical region is much better than the losers on the other side of the field, you might consider making these potato skins: as a homemade, 100% local version of the sports bar menu mainstay, these were surprisingly good.
I was skeptical when I came across this recipe in the funny little potatoes-only cookbook I picked up in Asheville a few years ago. Generally speaking, baked things that try to stand in for fried things fail on multiple counts: taste, texture, ease of preparation. Yet, while these potatoes certainly aren’t a quick recipe, the hands-on time was relatively short, and the taste more than makes up for the time needed to bake, broil & fill. Shockingly enough, these actually taste like potatoes (not nuclear-fired globs of Velveeta & grease that will live on in memory, via the scorching burn on the roof of your mouth, for days to come): the outsides are crispy, the skin crackly, the potato flesh soft & fluffy, with just enough grease to feel like you are indulging, but not so much that it overpowers the flavor of the potato itself, not to mention all of the delicious toppings. Color me impressed: if the football is half as good as these skins, people may actually watch the game.
Adapted from Crispy Potato Skins in Greatest Ever Potato by Papplewick Press (If you happen to be in New Zealand, you can find a copy here.)
- 1 and 1/2 lbs baking potatoes
- 2 tbsp butter
- sharp cheddar
- Cajun sausage, thinly sliced and pan-fried
- crisp lettuce and julienned carrots, sliced scallions, or pink pickled shallots
- spicy plum sauce
- fresh cranberry salsa or peach salsa
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (375 degrees convection).
- Scrub potatoes well. Pierce skins with a fork in 3 or 4 spots, dry off, then arrange, not touching, on a baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 – 70 minutes, depending on potato size.
- Allow potatoes to cool slightly, then halve lengthwise and scoop out middle flesh, leaving at least 1/2-inch of potato in the skins (reserve potato flesh for another recipe). Preheat the oven broiler, then brush potato skins on both sides with melted butter. Return to the baking sheet, cut side up, and roast under the broiler until potatoes are beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, flip potatoes over so that the skin-side is up, and broil again until skin is crispy, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and top with cheese and cooked sausage. Broil until cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Serve hot topped with your favorite accompaniments.
Serves 4 as dinner, 8 as an appetizer.
- If serving your potato skins with sausage or bacon, you can use the sausage or bacon grease to brush the potato skins before broiling. I used half:half butter and sausage grease.
- Don’t be tempted to skip the three broiling steps; step 1 crisps the potato flesh so that it is like biting into a french fry; step 2 crisps the skin so that it is crackly, not soggy; step 3 melts the cheese and heats the skins through. All in all, better than deep-fried potato skins!
- I used some quite small potatoes from my farmer’s market; they made skins that were a perfect size, just two bites each. Easier to eat than the monster Russet variety, quicker to cook, crispier, and completely guilt-free when you down 6 of them for dinner. Or so I tell myself.
These were best made fresh, hot from the oven; but we had them again for lunch the next day, and re-heated, they were not half bad. If you must store, keep the toppings & potato skins separate if possible; re-crisp the ‘naked’ potato skins under the broiler for a few minutes, then add toppings and heat through.
Late Fall through early Spring.