[72] Baked Potatoes

How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition by Mark Bittman

You guys, I have to be honest with you here. The first photo for this recipe was, apparently, taken at 10:42 pm CST on the day before Thanksgiving. That means I was tired and stressed out, but also desperately seeking yet another recipe to be executed.

You see, Thanksgiving was not the glut of recipes I expected it to be. Largely, this is because I had to keep the feasting down to a reasonable amount for four people. As you can imagine, this was hard to do. When I thought we might have between eight and ten, I was thinking maybe four or five pies and several sides and a monster turkey and so on. When it finally came to just four people, I had to 1) reign in my instincts quite a bit and 2) give myself permission to make things I’d been drooling over for days, even though they didn’t apply to the challenge.

That second one was quite tough. It was further made tough by the fact that, honestly, there are certain things that need to be made for Thanksgiving dinner. Mashed potatoes being the big one (well, in my opinion). And I’ve already made mashed potatoes for the site! CRISIS!

However, I never should have doubted Mark Bittman. He came to my rescue, by way of “variations” to the mashed potato recipe. Specifically a variation that included the phrase “according to the recipe on page…”

So, it turns out that you can make baked potatoes into mashed potatoes. I’ll explain yet more of why I chose to do this when I type up the mashed potato recipe (and, no, it wasn’t JUST that magical phrase). h2. Ingredients

4 large, starchy potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper (If you eat them as baked potatoes, which we did not.)

h2. Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the potatoes well, especially if you intend to eat the skins. Use a skewer or thin-bladed knife to poke a hole or two in each potato. Put them in the oven, either on a rimmed baking sheet or straight on the rack. Whatever you prefer. They’re done when a skewer or sharp knife inserted into one meets almost no resistance.

h2. Cooking Notes

h3. Cooking

Okay, no consumption notes for this one, as this was effectively an ingredient in another recipe.

Cooking was also fairly straightforward. I had Bill puncture the potatoes so they wouldn’t explode in the oven. He, insisting on doing it like we all learned, didn’t “poke a hole or two” in the potatoes with “a skewer or thin-bladed knife” but kind of repeatedly stabbed each with a fork.

Whatever works, folks. Especially at nearly midnight on the day before Thanksgiving.

I would normally just toss my potatoes on the rack, but I would also normally have used “4 large, starchy potatoes”. Instead, I put them on a baking sheet because, as you can see, I had a bunch of teeny-tiny potatoes, along with some normal (but not large) ones. They’re CSA potatoes. We get what we get and we like what we get.

Also, some are pink which is just so, so fun. Especially when you first slice into them. If we get anymore of them, I’ll try to remember to take a photo of a freshly sliced one, so you can see what I’m talking about.

Anyway, poke ’em, put ’em in the oven one way or another. Fish ’em out when a knife slides basically easily into them. Seems simple enough. The problem, it turns out, is that last step.

When I went to check on my potatoes, fairly early because I figured some of the small ones would be done quickly, the knife slide into all of them quite easily. However, as you will find out soon (in the “mashed baked potato” entry), I was apparently drawing on the super-human strength of a stressed out hostess the night before Thanksgiving. Because, in truth, that knife slid in super easily (Bill as my witness) but those potatoes were not done.

I do wish my rescuer, Bittman, had been slightly more of a rescuer and included rough cooking times, as he usually does. That might have helped, especially for the monster potato. Oh well. I learned. And I will, undoubtedly, make baked potatoes again and get better at it.