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How to Bake a Potato

Baked potato

A good baked potato, done to perfection, is a perennial favorite. Easy enough, nutritious enough for family fare, the baked potato treated with a little imagination, can become as glamorous as you want to make it. Even weight-watchers can enjoy this treat without guilt since a 3 1/2 ounce serving of baked potato contains only 93 calories.

Too many families enjoy good baked potatoes only when they’re eating out at a special restaurant, where they are so light and tender. Anyone can learn how to bake a potato and achieve the same wonderful result at home and nothing could be less trouble. For a failproof baked potato, there are a few simple, easy to remember rules:

1. Start with the right potato. Baking is the most demanding test of a potato’s quality. Most restaurants, use the Idaho Russet Burbank potato because of its texture and flavor. You can recognize this potato by its oval shape, its russet-brown net-textured skin, eyes that are shallow and few.

2. So they’ll all be ready at the same time, pick potatoes of uniform size. For delicious skins, just clean with a vegetable brush or with your cellulose kitchen sponge. Most growers put their potatoes through a good bath and they usually don’t require real scrubbing. Then just set them on a rack in the oven.

Don’t bake a potato in foil. This steams, rather than bakes your potatoes. Instead, wrap them in aluminum foil after baking to keep them hot. The skins, which are so good for you, will be crisp and more appealing also, if you do not rub them with oil or shortening.

3. Oven temperatures can range anywhere from 325 to 450 degrees F., so you can “bake-along” with whatever else you have in the oven. At 400 to 425 degrees F., allow about 50 minutes for potatoes 4 inches long. Adjust the baking time according to temperature and size. To test for doneness, pinch sides of potato with mitted hands or test with a slim skewer.

4. When soft, remove immediately. Using mitts or a towel, pick up and roll each baked potatoe, kneading gently for a second or two. Slash an X in the top and press the sides to force the contents into a creamy-white mound. Serve at once with your choice of toppings or offer your family and guests a selection.

Good as they are topped with butter or margarine and seasoned with salt and pepper, baked potatoes take to stuffing for added glamour and heartier fare. Instead of serving them as an accompaniment, they can be served as the main course when stuffed with seafood for example, just like in the following recipe.

Pommes de Terre Marin

6 large baking potatoes
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups hot milk
1 1/2 to 2 pounds filet of sole
Milk or white wine (enough to cover fish for poaching)
1/2 to 3/4 pound cooked shrimp or crabmeat
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese
Mornay Sauce

Scrub potatoes and bake on rack in oven. Ten minutes before they are done, simmer filet of sole in milk or white wine until tender (about 5 to 10 minutes). When potatoes are soft, remove a lengthwise slice from the top of each hot potato. Scoop out the contents and mash or press through a ricer. Add salt and pepper and the butter melted in hot milk. Whip until light and fluffy. Pile potato mixture lightly into shells, leaving deep hollowed centers. Lift the filet of sole from the liquid. Reserve this liquid for the Mornay sauce.

Divide the sole into six portions and place in the hollow of each potato. Top with cooked shrimp or crabmeat. Pour Momay Sauce over seafood. Sprinkle top with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F until lightly browned. Serves 6.

Note: When used as fish course instead of main dish, use only 1/2 pound filet of sole.

Mornay Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons liquid from poaching scant cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper

Over low heat, cook together butter, flour, milk or wine from poaching, adding enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups altogether. When very hot, stir in shredded cheese, salt and pepper.

Souffled Baked Potatoes

6 large baking potatoes
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freeze-dried or frozen chopped chives

Bake potatoes until soft. Cut lengthwise thin slice off each top. Remove contents and rice or mash. Combine other ingredients, blend into potato and whip. Add a little cream or milk if necessary to whip until fluffy. Pile filling lightly into potato shells. Top with grated cheese, bacon bits or slivered almonds. Bake on cookie sheet at 375 degrees F. until tops are lightly browned. 6 servings.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Bake potatoes until tender. While still hot, take a shallow lengthwise slice off the top of each potato. Keeping the shell intact, scoop out the meat. Mash or press contents through a ricer. Add salt and pepper and butter melted in hot milk (allow about 3 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon butter for each potato). Whip until fluffy.

Pile potato lightly into each shell. Sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese or grated Parmesan cheese. Dot with butter. Place on a cookie sheet in a 375 degrees F. oven until the potato peaks are golden brown.

Variations: After whipping potato with milk and butter fold in canned deviled ham, or bits of corned beef, chipped beef, cooked chicken or turkey.

Orange Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 medium baking potatoes
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 egg or 2 egg yolks
1/3 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
Orange juice

Bake potatoes until tender. Cut lengthwise slice off each top. Remove contents and rice or mash well. Mix in butter, egg, cream, mace and orange rind. Gradually add enough orange juice to whip light and fluffy. Salt as needed. Return filling to shells. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Serves 4

Probably no vegetable gets in hot water more often than potatoes. Mild, delicately flavored potatoes are a favorite of just about everyone of any age. Besides boiled potatoes, they are baked, fried, stuffed and mashed and served any meal of the day.

Here are some additional old favorites you may like to try again and some new ways to serve the popular vegetable.

Potatoes au Gratin

3 cups (4 medium) cooked diced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped pimiento
1/2 cup grated American cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup buttered soft crumbs

Cook potatoes in skins until tender; peel and dice. Melt butter; add flour, salt, monosodium glutamate and pepper; stir to a smooth paste. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Stir in parsley and pimiento; add potatoes. Turn into a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Combine bread crumbs, cheese and paprika; sprinkle around edge of casserole. Bake in a 400 degrees F. oven 30 minutes. Yields 6 servings.

Note: Casserole can be made ahead of time kept in the refrigerator then reheated before serving. If casserole has been chilled before reheating, bake in a 350 degrees F. oven 50 minutes.

Potatoes Anna

6 medium potatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Pare potatoes; slice thinly. Place a layer of potatoes circular fashion in a shallow round casserole. Sprinkle with some of the onion, monosodium glutamate, salt and pepper. Repeat twice. Pour melted butter over all. Cover. Bake in a 425 degrees F. oven 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake 5 minutes longer. Yields 6 servings.

Dixie Hash Browns

8 slices bacon
1 pound frozen Southern style hash brown potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

In medium fry pan, cook bacon until crisp; remove and drain. Add frozen potatoes to bacon fat; sprinkle with salt and poultry seasoning. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till potatoes are tender and lightly browned. Crumble bacon over potatoes and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Baked Potatoes Toppings

Here are ideas for tempting toppings for baked potatoes. Mix and match them for dieters and non-dieters. Non-dieters should not skip the low-calorie list, for it includes many delectables that shouldn’t be missed.

Low Calorie Toppings

- Freshley-ground coarse black pepper and salt; no calories – just superb baked potato flavor.

- Seasoned salt, seasoned pepper.

- Snipped parsley, dill, watercress or frozen chives.

- Chopped drained pimiento.

- Low calorie salad dressing.

- Low calorie cheese shreds with thin sliced sweet Spanish onion or green onion.

- Grated Parmesan cheese with frozen chives.

- Whipped butter: Fewer calories per serving.

- Lemon butter: Butter flavor goes much further when melted and mixed with lemon juice grated rind, chives or parsley.

- Hot skim milk or chicken broth seasoned with herbs.

- Yogurt.

- Cottage cheese: Try adding chives, dill, pimiento or chopped tomato.

- Mock sour cream: Cottage cheese whipped in blender. Good too when you add salt and lemon juice.

- Marinated mushrooms: Make them yourself by marinating in low calorie Italian salad dressing.

For Non-Dieters

- Butter: Still the all-time favorite.

- Whipped butter: Gradually beat 1/2 pint whipping cream into pound room-temperature butter. Whip until fluffy; adding chopped chives if desired. Chill.

- Roquefort butter: Cream Roquefort cheese with equal amount softened butter or thick cream

- Sour cream: Serve plain or add frozen chives, small amount of packaged dip mix, toasted onion soup mix or your own favorite seasonings.

- Avocado: Mash with sour cream, garlic salt, dash Tabasco.

- Triple threat: Mix together 1 cup shredded process cheese, 1/4 cup soft butter and 1/2 cup sour cream with either chopped green onions or parsley. Chill.

- Cream cheese whip: Blend cream cheese with milk or cream, garlic salt, lemon juice and frozen chives or parsley. Whip.

- Hot cheese: canned cheese sauce, Welsh rarebit, canned cheese soup or fondue mix, served on a warmer to spoon over baked potato.

- Creamed toppings: Packaged sauces and cream soups with bits of mushrooms, pimiento meat or vegetable added.

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