Monday, September 19, 2011

Humble Spuds: How to Perfectly Roast a Potato

When I was a brand new mama, I had to completely relearn how to cook. I realized that pretty quickly. Was it that the only food I ate for the first week of Thing 1's life was cheezits straight from the box? Or was it me in the kitchen trying to mince and sweat onions in a dutch oven while my little red baloney-loaf screamed his head off in the bouncy seat? More than one night ended with both of us hungry and in tears.

It was for this reason that I found 'the walk-away'. 'The walk-away' is when you put something on to cook and instead of sticking around to futz with it you simply...walk away. Don't mess with a sausage frying in a pan. Don't check on boiling or steaming veggies. They really don't need you until they need to be strained. Chicken baking in the oven doesn't need you except for maybe one baste. Just walkaway. Go and nurse the baby, fold the laundry or in my case, put your purse away, change clothes and spend some quality time with the kids. 30 minute meals are awesome, but 45 minute meals with only 10 active minutes are way better.

Granted, the 'walk-away' does require medium heat otherwise you might burn something. I always loved how Emeril Lagasse used to pull the knob off his oven on his Food Network show and tell the audience 'You know these come with knobs for a REASON!!' Medium heat is really the best for the stove-top walk-away.

Now all this leads me to the humble baked potato. Steaming. Buttery. Starchy. Filling. I LOVE baked potatoes. But before I had children I don't think I had had more than two baked potatoes in the prior ten years. Post motherhood I began eating them several times a week because they are the best hot walk-away meal! When I would get home from work I would get Thing 1's dinner together and pop my potato in the oven, maybe with a chicken breast or maybe not. By the time the little bugger collapsed in sleep my spud would be fully cooked and I could start my evening. I have tried lots of different ways of making a baked potato. But I am an exacting lady. I am always looking for the absolute best way to cook simple food. I believe I have perfected my potato baking techniques.

How to Perfectly Bake a Potato

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

First, select a good medium sized potato, one that is longer than it is wide. A good baker is one that feels heavy for its size. I also like potatoes that have a uniform shape, so that it won't be raw on one side while overdone on the other. There is little in life that worse than underdone potatoes. Flat tires maybe, mornings without coffee definitely.

Scrub your potato. I sometimes use soap and even a rough cloth or clean sponge to get it seriously scrubbed. After all, I eat the potato skin. OH! I should have mentioned that sooner. If you are just eating the inside of your taters and tossing the skin then you are missing out. Potato skins are a tremendous source of fiber. But I eat them because they are so delicious. Interesting....In researching this article I discovered that according to The Straight Dope (a website), potato skins contain toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids. Green potatoes especially have these compounds (so don't eat those). But, you have to eat alot to suffer consequences. I have certainly not had any adverse reactions and I have eaten alot of potato skins. While not all the nutrition of a potato is locked in it's skin, they are really tasty. And they do contain lots of billing fiber!!

Take a fork or a sharp knife and poke a couple holes in your potato. It doesn't have to turn into a crime scene. Seven to ten pokes is more than enough to let the steam vent.

Next pour a teaspoon of olive oil into your hand, then massage it into potato. Lastly pop him in the oven and wait 45 minutes or so. Check the doneness of your tuber by squeezing. The outside should be crispy and crackly while the inside should give and feel soft. A larger potato will need an hour and possibly more depending on size.

When your potato is done, eat it right away or else the super crunchy skin will soften and be significantly less delicious. Favorite toppings? Butter, full fat greek yogurt and plenty of sea salt and cracked black pepper (as seen in all the pictures). But also chili and cheese is sublime. I have even been known to whip up a cheese sauce and soften some vegetable up in there. Cheese sauce, green beans and broccoli to smother a perfectly baked potato? Delish.

Definitely try the walkaway. And definitely enjoy your potatoes!

This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays and Simple Lives Thursdays


  1. I don't have kids (yet) but I'm already a fan of the "walkaway" dinner! After I started training for a race, I realized there was no way I could come home and get a run in and make a dinner that required a lot of attention. So now I'll throw in the over or on the stove things that can cook away while I run and then dinner is almost done by the time I'm finished. It's definitely the way to go :)

  2. Great comment on the difference between active and passive cooking! I love soup for that reason... throw it in the pot, clap a lid on, and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

    If you bake extra, veggie stuffed baked potatoes are a great way to refresh them the next night.

    Oh, I've heard you can make "hard-boiled" eggs in the oven too...

  3. So that's what I'm doing wrong....too low heat....

    Mine are still crunchy after an hour....ewwww.

  4. I love a crisp baked potato, my grandmother always used butter, but olive oil works well too. And the high heat is key. But I always bake extra so the kids can make leftover stuffed bakes potatoes.