Potato with toppings, call it dinner
by Karen Fernau - Oct. 28, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
A baked potato is known best as a side dish. But this beloved starch becomes a self-contained meal when topped with ingredients from around the globe.
Splitting a potato in half and dressing it with eggplant to smoked salmon to chili transforms a spud into a mini casserole.
"From ethnic toppings to simple ham and cheese, there's not much that doesn't go well on top of a baked potato. I think of it as a neutral palette that you can add anything to for a quick dinner," said Idaho Potato Commission vice president Don Odiorne. Potatoes are cheap nutrition - about 25 cents each - and using small amounts of meats, cheeses and leftovers offers infinite possibilities for a meal for one or a meal for many. Heat up leftovers like chicken fajitas or beef Stroganoff, turkey and gravy, or even stir-fried vegetables. Top a baked potato and dinner's ready.
Topped potatoes also work for a casual party. Serve hot potatoes, and let guests top their own from a range of ingredients.
Any potato can be baked, but russets are the best option, being light and flaky.
If you are short on time, potatoes can be cooked in the microwave. A second option is to cook them halfway in the microwave and finish off in the oven. Baking allows the skin to crisp and moisture to evaporate from the potato.
Following are tips on how to buy and bake potatoes:
• Select potatoes with even brown skin tone and no greenish cast. Also, look for potatoes without bruises, discolored spots or sprouts. When baking many potatoes at once, choose those with uniform shapes and sizes so they are done at the same time.
• Rinse and scrub each potato under cold running water. Dry each potato thoroughly.
• Pierce each deeply with a fork or sharp knife to allow steam to escape during cooking.
• Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 325 to 400 degrees. Potatoes cook in about 45 minutes at 400 degrees, 60 minutes at 350 degrees and 90 minutes at 325 degrees.
• Bake on oven racks, turning the potatoes over halfway through the baking time.
• Potatoes are done if tender when pierced with a fork.
• Remove and slit across the top with a sharp knife. Gently push in each end toward the middle. The potato will pop open and loosen the fluffy interior.
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Ideas for baked-potato toppings
Some ideas for toppings to turn baked potatoes into meals:
• Warm diced ham, bell peppers and melted Cheddar cheese.
• Sour cream, smoked salmon and diced scallions.
• Black beans, diced chiles, shredded cheese and salsa.
• Ricotta cheese, sliced pepperoni and fresh, diced basil.
• Canned chili, diced onions and shredded cheese.
• Crumbled bacon, tomatoes and cream cheese.
• Steak, freshly grilled or leftover and sliced, grilled onions and roasted red-pepper strips.
Microwave Broccoli- and Shrimp-Topped Potatoes
Oct. 28, 2009 12:00 AM
Idaho Potato Commission
Scrub potatoes; pierce several times with a fork. Wrap each potato in a microwave-safe paper towel; arrange potatoes 1 inch apart. Microwave on high 6-8 minutes, turning and rearranging once; let stand 2 minutes. With a fork, pierce the skin in the form of a cross. Press the ends of the potato toward the center, lifting and fluffing the flesh of the potato.
Combine broccoli and onion in a 9-inch microwave-safe pie plate; cover with microwaveable plastic wrap and microwave on high 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegar and cornstarch in a 4-cup glass measuring cup, microwave, uncovered, on high 2-3 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Pour sauce over broccoli; stir in cooked shrimp and pimiento. Spoon mixture over potatoes.
Makes 2 servings.
Mexican Baked Potatoes
Oct. 28, 2009 12:00 AM
Wash, dry and pierce potatoes in several places. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in oven and cook about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, cook beef in a non-stick skillet. When done, drain any grease. Add taco seasoning and 3/4 cup water. Cook on medium high for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice open warm potatoes and gently break apart white flesh. Add 1/2 tablespoon sour cream to each potato half. Top each potato with 1/4 of the taco beef, 1/4 of the Cheddar cheese and 1/4 of the green onions. Serve with salsa.
Makes 4 servings.