March 5, 2013 #1124 Hot Potato
For my money, there are few things as wonderfully indulgent as a big old baked potato, generously dressed with butter. I know there are some health implications here, and actually I have been using low fat butter substitutes lately. But you get the point. Jerry prefers that you cover that potato with sour cream and garnish with chopped scallions, which is a true classic. But any way you slice it, the baked potato is delicious.
The Russet is the preferred potato for baking. Its thick skin and high starch content guarantee a good fluffy texture in the middle. Thin skinned potatoes have their place, but not for baking. So put aside the Yukon Golds, the reds, whites, creamers, and fingerlings.
Parents should consider teaching potato basics to their kids as soon as they can be trusted with an oven. Wash and scrub the potatoes thoroughly (it's common for them to retain a little dirt in their skins) and prick the skins with a fork to let steam out. Set your oven to a high temperature, about 450, and place the potatoes in the middle on a rack. Give them a good hour to bake, and test with a toothpick. When it goes in easily and comes out clean, it's done. But if the skin doesn't look truly crisp and somewhat papery, give them a few more minutes.
Dressing a baked potato is a matter of personal preference. If you're using butter, this is one of the best excuses for buying high quality offerings such as cultured butter, or fine Norman butter. It will make a difference. Salt and pepper are essential, but after that the sky's the limit. Epicurious lists 148 recipes for baked potatoes, half of which seem to feature melted cheese and bacon. Rich cheese-based salad dressings get a lot of play, as do cream cheese, various onions, peppers and herbal seasonings.