While I frequently enjoy one for a solo dinner, baked potatoes are great when you’re having people over. Not only are they about as crowd-pleasing as it gets and require almost zero work on your part, but they are also the perfect opportunity to assemble a Really Cool Toppings Bar, aka the theme for my wedding, should I ever have one. Even though I find it hard to improve on the simple “lots of butter, salt, and too many scallions” combo, I do love to get dressed up for company and break out the picked herbs, sour cream, and fancy fish eggs. But don’t let the presence of caviar intimidate you—the following are just suggestions and do not have to be obeyed, by any means.
Serves 4 to 10
- 4–10 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed well and patted dry
- Canola oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Acceptable toppings include but are not limited to:
- Sour cream, lots of it (sure, go ahead and use Greek yogurt, but don’t blame me when you wish you had used sour cream)
- Chives and/or scallions, finely chopped
- Unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature
- Flaky sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- Trout or salmon roe (optional)
- Finely chopped fresh dill and/or parsley
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. This may seem excessive, but I assure you it is not.
Using a fork, poke the potatoes all around. This is kind of a violent act, I’ll admit, but it’s necessary so that the steam can escape the potato, allowing the inside to cook evenly and the skin to crisp. You could use a small knife, but I don’t want anyone ending up in the hospital.
Drizzle a little oil onto each potato, or onto your hands, and rub the potatoes with a thin, even layer of oil. (My mom would do this with a paper towel; also an option.)
Season the potatoes on all sides with salt and pepper, and place directly onto the oven rack and bake until the potatoes are deeply crispy, dark, dark brown on the outside, and totally baked through, 60–70 minutes.
Carefully remove the potatoes and transfer to a large serving platter. Once ready to eat, slice them open lengthwise and fill to your heart’s content with all the toppings in the land.
Don’t cut the potatoes open until you’re ready to eat them or else the steam will escape and they will lose heat and the butter won’t melt when you put it on (a true tragedy!).
Reprinted from “Nothing Fancy.” Copyright 2019 by Alison Roman. Photographs copyright 2019 by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.