Baked on a bed of salt.
"If someone told me they were a baked-potato aficionado, I'd turn tail," I told Mark while making this recipe. "It's like saying, 'Hi, I'm the most boring person you'll meet today.'"
So now you know where I stand on baked potatoes.
It's not that I don't like baked potatoes. I ate a lot of them early in my pregnancy because they are filling and mostly benign tasting. (This was when all food smelled like onions. I was so sad I didn't like food. So very, very sad.) In non-pregnant times, I view baked potatoes as a medium for salsa and sour cream.
This being said, this recipe from Cook's Illustrated yielded the best-tasting baked potato I've ever eaten.
- The gimmick: The name: salt-baked potatoes. You may be thinking, "What exactly does that mean?" It means you bake four Russets in 2 1/2 cups of salt. It's a lot of salt. MVH looked at the baking dish and lamented, "In ancient times, salt was used as currency." Now it's a throw-away ingredient in a recipe for a very inexpensive main ingredient. Oh, the irony. (Note: MVH will tell you with relish that he's really cheap. Food waste of any kind gets him all agitated.) So what does all that salt do? According to the recipe story, the salt crystals and potatoes exchange moisture, which makes the potatoes' flesh fluffy and their skins tender. I can attest to both qualities.
- Taste and see: The texture of these potatoes is surprising. It's tender, not clumpy, powdery, and inconsistent. It's as if mashed potatoes were compacted. The skins were soft but not mushy, and the skins seemed thinner (probably because the skins weren't as tough and chewy). I usually don't eat the skin of a baked potato, but I gobbled up this skin. Because it baked in salt, the skin also was pleasantly salty. Nom.
- Accessories: The potatoes are baked with sprigs of rosemary and a head of garlic. The result is potatoes with a vaguely rosemary affect. The sticky, sweet, and mellow head of garlic is mashed with butter for a potato topping — not a mistake.
- Less than perfect: I have two drawbacks for this recipe. First, the reheated leftover potatoes are not nearly as tasty as their day-one kin. Second, this recipe calls for a very hot oven for a very long time — first 75 minutes at 450 degrees and then 20 minutes at 500 degrees. This energy use for baked potatoes seemed a little excessive to me.
The salt formed a crusty shell around the potatoes.
Even though these are the best baked potatoes I've had (restaurant or no), I'm not burning to make them again anytime soon. Personally I don't need many baked potatoes. I could, however, see them being a nice addition to a steak dinner.
What do you think? Love your baked potatoes? Have a surplus of salt? Lemme know!
Labels: challenge, Cook's Illustrated, potato, vegetable