One Fantastic Potato

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It’s February and love is in the air — or at least our society’s unabashed addiction to sugar, chocolate, and diamonds is hard to miss this month.  I have nothing against Valentine’s Day, and will undoubtedly make some sort of red and/or pink heart-shaped treats, but I’m also not going to go out of my way to go over the top in celebrating it. Nor do I expect to receive any diamonds beyond a game of cribbage. At any rate, today I will take advantage of the situation to express my love for potatoes. 

To me, potatoes are a culinary diamond in the rough. After all, they grow in the dirt and are really nothing to look at (they aren’t brilliantly colored or shaped — even carrots and turnips have that going for them). Yet this humble lump can be elevated to many different levels of gastronomic beauty. Think about it: is there anyone — anyone — who doesn’t like potatoes in some form? Baked. Mashed. French-fried. Curlicued. Scalloped. Roasted. Hash-browned. Grilled. Souped. Skins-ed. Wedged. Salad-ed. Twice-baked. Pancaked. Tater-totted. 

I haven’t met a potato I didn’t like. So imagine my delight when I happen across an episode of Cook’s Country where the good folks of America’s Test Kitchen are making Crispy Baked Potato Fans. Baked, crisped, with a cheesy bread crumb topping and bacon, if you so desired? Yes, please! They have two variations: one with just Monterey Jack cheese and another with blue cheese and bacon. I actually didn’t have either variety of cheese, so I subbed cheddar for the Monterey Jack and added the bacon. Serve with sour cream or seasoned sour cream dip, if you like.

What resulted was truly beautiful! Using pretty typical pantry ingredients, not really hard to make, impressive to look at, and very delicious, these are a winner! I’d even consider using smaller potatoes and make these into an impressive appetizer for a party (the Super Bowl is tomorrow, after all). Or a Valentine’s Day dinner. I promise they will be love at first bite.

They really are that fantastic!

Crispy Baked Potato Fans

Taken from Cook’s Country:

Why this recipe works:

This stunning potato dish delivers a fluffy interior, a crisp exterior, and a cheesy bread crumb topping—if you can get the potatoes cooked right. For our Crispy Baked Potato Fans recipe, we found that using the right kind of potato is key. The russet, or Idaho, potato was the best choice because of its starchy flesh and fluffy texture. Taking the time to rinse the potatoes of surface starch after they were sliced prevented them from sticking together, while trimming off the end of each potato gave the remaining slices room to fan out. To prevent overcooking our spuds in the punishing oven heat, we precooked them in the microwave before baking. A topping of fresh bread crumbs, melted butter, two kinds of cheese, garlic powder, and paprika is the crowning touch on our Crispy Baked Potato Fans. As a final step in our Crispy Baked Potato Fans recipe, we broiled the potatoes to make the topping extra-crunchy.

Serves 4

To ensure that the potatoes fan out evenly, look for uniformly shaped potatoes.

Ingredients

Bread Crumb Topping

  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Potato Fans

  • 4 russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled, if desired

Instructions

  1. For the bread crumb topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground. Bake bread crumbs on rimmed baking sheet until dry, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then combine crumbs, butter, cheeses, paprika, garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. (Bread crumb topping can be refrigerated in zipper-lock bag for 2 days.)
  2. For the potato fans: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Following photos 1 to 3 at left, cut 1/4 inch from bottom and ends of potatoes, then slice potatoes crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals, leaving 1/4 inch of potato intact. Gently rinse potatoes under running water, let drain, and transfer, sliced-side down, to plate. Microwave until slightly soft to the touch, 6 to 12 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking.
  3. Arrange potatoes, sliced-side up, on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush potatoes all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until skin is crisp and potatoes are beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and heat broiler.
  4. Carefully top potatoes with stuffing mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Broil until bread crumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon, if using. Serve.
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