Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Baked Loaded Potato Skins: a Recipe of Victory

Last week, we asked readers what traditional Super Bowl recipe you would most like to see lightened up. There were a bunch of wonderful suggestions, but I was most intrigued by the Potato Skin challenge. Because I love them very, very hard.

Historically (historically?) mid-scale dining joints like TGIFriday’s and Charley O’s have served potato skins packed with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. While undeniably delicious, they’re not the most nutritious foods in the world, and a plateful can surpass your entire caloric intake for the day. Could we create a lighter version, but still maintain the rich flavor? ‘Twas a challenge.

I began with research. And as it turns out, most loaded potato skins are fried. By baking them, I could chop a ton of fat without compromising too much taste. Epicurious, All Recipes, and Simply Recipes each had recipes for baked skins, and by taking elements from all three, I had an excellent base. All Recipes suggested coating the skins with spices, too, which added flavor without fat. Sweet.

Next up was the skin size. How could I make the skins appear substantial, without being overwhelmingly huge? The solution: cut large russet potatoes into thirds instead of halves or quarters. That way, they weren’t too big, weren’t too small. It looked like I would be serving a lot of food, and the skins didn’t dwarf the fillings.

About that filling. Cheese wasn’t an issue: 2% shredded cheddar is the frommage of champions. Bacon-wise, I stuck with the real thing, as turkey bacon seemed like cheating here. I skipped the sour cream (not a fan), but a topping of scallions provided a sharp, fresh finish. Voila. The skins were good to go.

And? Victory! The results were crisp, flavorful, and felt like an indulgence. The Husband-Elect and our friend J. loved ‘em, and H-E even requested I make them again. What's more, he made that request in the middle of Lost's season premiere. This meant he liked them so much, he stopped thinking about the Smoke Monster for a while. Whoa.

So, here’s the recipe. Just to clarify: this is not a healthy dish. Much like our Macaroni and Cheese, it’s a somewhat lighter version of a pretty unhealthy one. In that sense, we’re all winners here.

Happy Super Bowling, folks.

If you like this recipe, you might also dig:

Baked Loaded Potato Skins
Makes 9 skins.
Inspired by Epicurious, All Recipes, and Simply Recipes.

3 large russet potatoes (about 11 ounces each), washed, scrubbed, and dried
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
A few shakes paprika
A few shakes garlic powder
A few shakes Kosher salt
A few shakes freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup 2% cheddar, Colby, or Jack cheese, shredded
3 slices bacon
A few scallions
Low-fat or fat-free sour cream (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 400°F.

2) Pierce potatoes a few times with a fork. Place 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a small bowl. Brush potatoes with the oil. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until they can be pierced with a knife with no resistance. Remove from oven and let cool a bit.

3) Turn oven up to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

4) In a small bowl, whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil with paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside. (Now would be a good time to slice the scallions, too, if you haven’t done it already.)

5) When potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut each one lengthwise into thirds. The cuts will look like this (along the pink lines):

Using a teaspoon, gently scoop out the potato flesh, leaving a 1/4-to-1/2 inch shell for each skin. As you’re finished with each one, place it on the baking sheet. Save all the leftover scooped-out potato flesh (I had exactly 1 lb.) for another purpose.

6) Brush both sides of each skin with the vegetable oil mixture. Bake skin side down for 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Using tongs, flip skins over. Bake for another 7 to 9 minutes.

7) While skins are baking, cook bacon in a pan on the stove top. Drain on a paper towel. Crumble or cut up into little pieces using kitchen shears. Set aside.

8) Remove skins from oven. Distribute cheese evenly among the skins (about 1 scant tablespoon per skin). Sprinkle evenly with bacon crumbles. Bake for another 2 minutes, or just long enough for the cheese to melt.

9) Remove to a plate. Add a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle with scallions and serve with sour cream, if you like. Dance!

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
113 calories, 5.5 g fat, 1.3 g fiber, $0.40
(Compare to 1 O’Charleys skin: 188 calories, 13.3 g fat, 1 g fiber)

Skins from 3 large russet potatoes (about 17 ounces after carving): 467 calories, 0.5, 11.1 g fiber, $2.04
1 teaspoon vegetable oil: 44 calories, 5 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.02
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil: 185 calories, 21 g fat, 0 g fiber: $0.06
A few shakes paprika: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
A few shakes garlic powder: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
A few shakes Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
A few shakes freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1/2 cup 2% cheddar, Colby, or Jack cheese, shredded: 180 calories, 12 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.62
3 slices bacon: 138 calories, 10.7 g fat, 0 g fiber: $0.60
A few scallions: 5 calories, 0 g fat, 0.4 g fiber, $0.22
TOTAL: 1019 calories, 49.2 g fat, 11.5 g fiber, $3.62
PER SERVING (TOTAL/9): 113 calories, 5.5 g fat, 1.3 g fat, $0.40

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