This is the final ‘taco’ in my three taco series to prepare us for Super Bowl but the fun doesn’t end here! Come on back tomorrow AND Friday for two wonderful done-in-a-flash appetizers. There will be a giveaway you won’t want to miss on Friday. It’s a BIG one. Bigger even than my potatoes. Believe me!
You know those questions that go something: “Which three foods would you take with you to a deserted island to eat for the rest of your life?” My rote answer to that is always “Potatoes, Onions and Cheese” If they let me choose four, I add “bacon”. If they let me choose five, I add “chocolate”. I am a woman of priorities, you see… And potatoes, well, they’re high on that priority list. Blame it on ancestry, carb-addiction, frugality, or whatever, the fact remains that this gal needs potatoes to survive.
When I was a kid, one of my favourite meals that my mom made was a baked potato bar. My little heart skipped with joy every time I came home to the earthy smell of potatoes baking in the oven. Mom always pulled out all the goodies for topping the baked spuds. Little did I know at the time what a genius move that was to clean out the refrigerator. Odds and ends of leftover cooked meats, small amounts of four different kinds of cheese and cooked vegetables, sour cream, ranch dressing, sliced pepperoni, and whatever else we had on hand. To me, it was -quite simply- the best thing I could possibly imagine.
These Midwestern Tacos (in actuality baked potatoes with taco toppings) are in the grand tradition of my mom’s baked potato bars. I lay out all of our leftover taco toppings (around here that’s usually refried beans, chorizo/carnitas/shredded beef or chicken, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and grated cheese) and let everyone customize their spuds to their hearts’ content.
The key here, and it really is key, is to get some good potatoes and bake them right. Thank you, Queen Obvious. What I mean is this; while almost any not-rotten potato is a good potato, there is a better potato than other potatoes to use for baked potatoes. Ahem. In a word, RUSSET. Use the biggest, prettiest, least blemished Russet potatoes that you can find. Then scrub them, let them air dry, jab them with a fork a few times, rub them with olive oil and sprinkle them with coarse salt. The reason you go to all this trouble is because it makes a crispy, crunchy, irresistible skin and fluffy, dry, perfect insides. Minus the olive oil and salt will still yield a pretty yummy potato because as we’ve mentioned potatoes= joy, but it’ll be blandish. And a blandish potato skin is a sad potato skin. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still butter, salt and pepper it then eat the heck out of it, but I’d prefer it my way. To this day, my dad says that the biggest parenting mistake he ever made was teaching us to eat the potato skins because then he didn’t get to eat as many.
I like mega, mondo, gigantic Russets for my baked potatoes, because I feel a flutter of happiness looking at massive potatoes on my plate, but if you’re the more delicate type, or you can only find bonnie wee Russet potatoes, by all means… bake them! Again? THEY’RE POTATOES.
As for the toppings I specify in the recipe, feel free to swap things in or out for them. The idea is sound and can tolerate creativity based on likes, dislikes, and what is available. Oh, and hey. I bet it goes without saying, but just imagine how popular THIS will be if you serve it at your Super Bowl shindigs. It fits with my ultimate entertaining rule: “Make it customizable and everyone will be happy.” Well, unless they don’t eat potatoes. But if they don’t eat potatoes, shoot. I don’t know. Hand ‘em a fistful of nuts. ‘Cause that’s what they are.
…And I say that out of love.
- Desired number of large Russet potatoes, scrubbed under running water and air dried. (*See Notes)
- olive oil
- coarse salt (either sea or kosher)
- Fully cooked chorizo, shredded pork, chicken or beef
- refried beans
- shredded cheese (Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese are both good choices.)
- salsa or taco sauce
- chopped sweet onions
- sour cream
- fresh cilantro or lettuce
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Use a fork to jab the potatoes about 6 to 8 times all over them.
- Put the potatoes in a large mixing bowl, drizzle olive oil over them and use your hands to smear the oil over the potatoes to completely coat them. Sprinkle the potato skins with the coarse salt and lay them directly on the wire racks in the oven. Bake for 30-50 minutes, or until they are easily pierced with a fork, butterknife or cake tester. Because everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a large potato, begin testing around the 30 minute mark and go from there. My potatoes usually take closer to an hour.
- Wearing oven mitts, transfer the finished potatoes to a baking dish or rack.
- Using a fork, repeatedly jab the potato about ¾- to 1-inch deep in a line from end to end, overlapping a little with each poke. Turn the fork perpendicular to that line in the center and jab once at the same depth. If the potatoes are still screaming hot, put the oven mitts back on for the next step.
- Hold both ends of the potatoes and squeeze gently while pressing down slightly This will make the potato BURST open at the top and make the fluffy insides craggy so that toppings can settle into the nooks and crannies or butter can melt in or whatever you put on top will soak in. This is a very good thing.
- Top with desired taco toppings, starting with meats/beans/cheese and moving up through salsa, onions, ending with guacamole and sour cream, if desired. Serve immediately. Store leftover potatoes in a bowl in the refrigerator, uncovered.