The pregnant pause. I've learned to wait expectantly (ahem) when it occurs in a conversation with my friend Anne, who just happens to own Kitchen Conservatory, St. Louis' great kitchen store (bakers, especially, check out the great selection of hard-to-find cake pans and baking ingredients) and cooking school. You see, she's got big ideas about food that are some times contrary to conventional wisdom: I always learn something. Take the latest lesson, how to make the best baked potatoes.
Her father married late in life. [An addendum from Anne: 'The reason that fact is important is because he ate 3 meals out for 20 years so never wanted to eat out again. His restaurant experience meant he was also suspicious of sauces and believed that all food must be indentifiable. Mashed potatoes are not identifiable, they might have come from a box! A baked potato is.'] So one of the great benefits of a family was home-cooked food. In a Father-Knows-Best way, he insisted on a baked potato every single night, not just a wimpy or soggy foil-wrapped baked potato, mind you, but a slow-baked potato, one baked in the oven for three hours.
Yes, three hours. The family kitchen even housed a special oven, just for baking potatoes for Father & Family.
This may be the easiest vegetable you ever make. Just rub Idaho potatoes with olive oil, then pop into a 350F oven for three hours. The hardest thing about these baked potatoes? Not snatching one from the oven about half-way through, when the potato aroma throughout the house will begin to tempt ...
But it's worth the wait! Once the full three hours has passed, dig into creamy-smooth and nutty-roasted flesh that can be 'mashed' with a fork right there in the skin. And the skins? Oh my, the skins! They're stiff and crackly and completely delicious.
To contrast, compare the two photos. The top photo is the three-hour baked potato -- doesn't it look good?! The texture of the one-hour potato (below) is entirely blotchy, the skin looks positively raw. What a difference! If the photos don't persuade you, let your own side-by-side potato-baking and potato-tasting!
(SLOOOOW) BAKED POTATOES
Time to table: 3 hours
Serves -- well, you decide
1 russet potato, scrubbed well, rubbed with olive oil
Set oven to 350F. Place potatoes directly on the oven rack. There's no need to prick the potatoes, at least in my experience (just twice). If you do prick them, place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any juices. Bake for 3 hours. Remove from the oven, slice open pole to pole with a knife.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
For baking, choose a russet potato, some times called an 'Idaho potato' (which is actually a brand name for potatoes grown in Idaho along the lines of Parmesan Reggiano). It's a so-called 'mealy' potato' with relatively thick, brown and rough skin. It's high in starch and low in moisture so perfect for creating fluffy potato texture.
With any luck, the skin will be without blemishes but if there are rough spots, slice them off with a knife then proceed the same; I baked one potato that had an open cut and it baked just fine.
~ How to Roast Potatoes to Perfection ~
~ Rosemary Potatoes ~
~ Best-Ever New Potatoes & Green Beans ~
~ more potato recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Those Pink Potatoes ~
~ Mashed Potatoes & Carrots ~
~ Smashed Potatoes & Broccoli ~
~ more potato recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column