Spud Sunday: Desert Island Spud

What would you do if you had just one spud?

Would you boil it, steam it or mash it? Bake it, fry it or roast it?

Perhaps you’d chunk it up for salad or layer it into a gratin.

Or go the deep fat fryer route and turn it into crisps or chips.

It’s one of those desert island questions (albeit a desert island that comes, it would have to be said, with a fully equipped kitchen).

And the desert island answer? For me, without hesitation, the potato would have to be baked.

Baked potato

One potato, baked

There’s something so self-contained about a baked potato. In fact, if you really were cast away on a desert island with naught but a lonesome spud, baking it in the embers of a camp fire might, in fact, be the most realistic of your options (assuming you had the whole fire-making thing down, that is).

Whether you cook it by such ancient means or not, a baked potato, with its crispy, edible shell and piping hot flesh, is a meal that needs very little to complete it. It’ll want salt, naturally, but what spud doesn’t? Add butter and you need go no further.

Inevitably, though, there will be times when you don’t want to stop there. Happily, the baked potato is a canvas on which you may design freely. Split it in two, scoop out the flesh and mix with whatever you have that takes your fancy. Apart from the inevitable butter and salt, mine would involve some kind of cheese and some kind of onion (and I’d dearly like to think that I would never lack either). Perhaps I’d add herbs, perhaps mustard (even though I do, occasionally, run out of that). You might like to add bacon bits and sour cream, or maybe mash in a little tuna. I’ve even been known to make it banh mi style or add an egg. In the end, the only real problem is that one baked potato might not be enough.

Egg Baked Potato

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Baked Potato

What I didn’t mention above, of course, was that if I only had the one spud, I’d hope that it was (a) large and (b) floury-fleshed and good for baking.

As far as varieties go, perhaps try a Golden Wonder or (in the UK) a King Edward, while Russets are probably your first port of call in the States. Those of you in the UK might also be curious to try Vivaldi, a newer, creamy-fleshed variety, which has been dubbed the “butterless baker”, implying that it does not necessarily require the addition of butter to be enjoyed. That’s as maybe, though you won’t find me skipping the butter anytime soon.

You could also do worse than to read what Nigel Slater has to say on the subject of the perfect baked potato. He puts it all so much more eloquently than I.

You’ll need:

  • large potatoes (300-400g each), preferably floury
  • olive oil or other vegetable oil (optional)
  • coarse salt

The Steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Scrub the potatoes and dry them. Prick the skin all over using a fork or small knife, which will allow steam to escape while cooking.
  • You can brush the potato skin with olive oil or other vegetable oil if you like and sprinkle with salt – it’s really a matter of preference, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If you want to skip the oil, you can sprinkle on salt after you’re scrubbed the potatoes and while the skin is still a bit wet, so that the salt adheres.
  • Place the potatoes on a baking tray (or, better still, directly on an oven rack) and bake until tender, which should take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a quarter, depending on size, variety and your oven. The skin should be crisp, the flesh tender. Skewer a potato to test if you need to.
  • When the potatoes are done, remove from the oven. You may now do one of two things (1) eat straightaway with some salt and butter or perhaps some cheese – in this case you might want to apply Nigel Slater’s karate chop method, which involves applying (with care and a protected hand) a short sharp thwack to the baked potato once it comes out of the oven in order to rapidly release the steam contained therein or (2) for fancier fillings cut each one in half, scoop out the cooked flesh, mash together with your choice of fillings and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, sprinkled with cheese or drizzled with a little oil, then eat away to your heart’s content.

The Variations:

  • Be bold, add whatever takes your spudly fancy.

The Results:

  • Baked potatoes for whoever wants ‘em.
Comments
  • I ripped into some of these last week. I have been on a potato roast, stuffed, baked, and however I can get them. These look to pretty to eat Spudsy, but I will if you insist!

  • Oh go on, Chef E, tuck in – I won’t mind!

  • I was going to say I’m inclined to have mashed potatoes but one look at what you’ve presented and you have me rethinking my answer.

  • A perfect baked potato is definitely the way to go! Now that I think of it, I haven’t had a baked potato in a long time, must fix that!

  • OysterCulture: it’s a tough choice!

    5 Star Foodie: I know, it’s one of those things that I often forget about having and then, when I do, I wonder why I don’t bake potatoes more often.

  • Even your baked potatoes are special. How do you do that?? GREG

  • I don’t know Greg, guess I just think about potatoes waaay too much :D

  • You were the reason there’s an egg baked into a potato on our site. That thing was goooooooood! A simple baked potato (egg or no egg)can definitely be good anytime.

  • Amen to that, Duo!

  • I was going to say baked too, but your version has mine beat. Beautiful!

  • I have always loved baked potatoes. They are so simple and easy to prepare yet very delicious.

  • May you always have an abundance of potato. With that said, one potato is better than none, especially if it bakes up as perfectly as the one above! 8-)

  • Gotta say of go for roaring everytime with lashings of bisto. Those bakes spuds with eggs look interesting though!

  • Sorry meant to say roasting!

  • Lori: I’m sure your version would be right up there too :)

    dining room tables: absolutely, couldn’t agree more!

    Tangled Noodle: ah yes, one can never have enough potatoes, but even a single one is welcome

    Travel Food Phil: now I’m wondering just what a roaring spud might involve… :D

  • A baked potato is one of the world’s most perfect foods! So delicious in all of it’s simplicity. If I only had one spud I’d make loaded baked spud soup!

  • NOM *faints*

  • This baked spud would be the champion if it joined to a beauty contest. Gorgeous! I would add butter and cheese too. And would love to try this over a camp fire:)
    I want to let you know I took this beauty in my ‘recipes of the week episode 3′ post to share with my readers.

  • Reeni: Isn’t it just! Now I need to go and make me some loaded baked potato soup :)

    Aoife Mc: hope you recover soon, lol!

    zerrin: I think cooking this over a camp fire would be the absolute best – and of course thanks so much for the inclusion in your recipes of the week :)

  • If I had only one potato…. I would plant it to get more potatoes later.

    Mmm…. future potatoes.

  • …and that, Carol, is the best answer of all!

  • These are lovely twisted jacked potatoes! I love the fillings a lot! To top them with a sunny side up baked egg ,..yummie,…:)!

  • Glad you like, Sophie!

  • It’s roasties for me! So the question is, what is the difference between baking and roasting?

  • Hi Boardtc – ’tis a good question really, because both involve cooking your spuds in the oven at high heat. Roasting originally implied cooking food over a direct flame or spit, but mostly we don’t cook that way anymore, so roasting has more or less become synonymous with baking (which implies the use of dry, indirect heat). Some people draw a distinction based on the temperatures and fats used (with roasting using a higher temperature than baking and involving the use of fats) but there’s no particular consistency in definitions.

    Conventionally, as far as spuds are concerned, baked potatoes have the skin left on and have little or no oil or fats applied, while roasties, which may or may not be parboiled beforehand, are peeled and coated with oil or some other fat and both are cooked in a hot oven. Two different beasts, to be sure, but ones that will taste good either way.

  • These stuffed potatoes are better than any other gourmet meal. So tasty!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi Eftychia, thanks so much for dropping in and I’d have to agree that baked potatoes are just pretty damn good :)

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