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01/27/2015

~ Super Sunday Spud Skins of the Taco Tater Type ~

IMG_1879Potato skins -- a blast from my pub grub past.  Back in the '80's and 90's, one couldn't go out for a Happy Hour brew or two without encountering this snack on the menu -- right next to the Buffalo wings w/blue cheese dip, chicken fingers w/honey-mustard, nachos w/salsa and deep-fried mushrooms or zucchini w/marinara sauce.  If you traveled in a pack, pitchers of beer were ordered, everyone at the table selected one appetizer and you all shared.  Those were such good times -- shooting pool, throwing darts, swilling beer and eating crispy potato skins!

Suds 'n Spuds = perfect game-day pub-grub!!!

That was the suds-'n-spuds period of my life, and, I was the member of our group who always ordered the spuds.  The best ones were at Champs Sports Grill, just a few blocks from where we lived at the time -- theirs were extra crispy on the outside, nicely salted too, and, ooey-gooey cheddar cheesey to a fault.  They were my Friday-night Happy-Hour indulgence food.

PICT0094I remember my inital thought being "how practical", "making use of the potato skins". But then -- when I decided to make them at home for my husband and sons, I revised my thinking a bit: I can only make potato skins on days when I have a purpose for the baked centers. Allow me to recommend my ~ Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic and Cheddar Soup ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 2, 11 or 22, and, it conveniently uses centers from eight baked Russet potatoes!

6a0120a8551282970b0163055c04a6970dA bit about the Russet potato: Known as the Idaho or Burbank (after their developer, horticulturist Luther Burbank), these potatoes are generically labeled "baking". They're long, slightly-rounded, and, have thick rough skins, which when baked are not only edible, are quite tasty. Their low moisture and high starch content gives them superior baking and frying qualities, but they don't do well when boiled.  For more details, read my post ~ Dear Perfectly Baked Potato:  Your Crispy Skin and Fluffy Center, Make My Steaks Taste Even Better ~ in Categories 4, 15 or 20!

For the crispy potato skins:

6-8 whole, even-sized Russet potatoes (Note:  I choose smaller Russets when serving just the skins (with the classic cheddar cheese melted inside each one then served topped with bacon bits, sour cream and thinly-sliced green onions) as an appetizer.  I choose larger Russets when I'm making my fully-loaded knife-and-fork taco tater skins -- nobody can eat just one.)  

4  tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat, for every 6-8 potatoes

4  tablespoons melted butter, for every 6-8 potatoes

4  tablespoons coarse sea salt, for every 6-8 potatoes

2  cups grated cheddar cheese, 2 generous tablespoons per potato half

IMG_9151Toppings for my fully-loaded taco tater skins:

2  cups ~ Kids Stuff:  Jesse's Favorite Tex-Mex Beef Taco Filling ~ made with ~ Mel's Homemade Tex-Mex-Style Taco Seasoning ~ (Note:  The star of my fully-loaded taco tater skins is my filling made with my homemade seasoning.  You can find both recipes in Categories 13 & 20. Make whatever makes you happy!)

sour cream, guacamole & salsa

cilantro leaves and/or thinly-sliced scallion tops, for garnish

6a0120a8551282970b0163055c3d7f970d~ Step 1.  Using a vegetable brush, thoroughly scrub the desired number of potatoes under tepid water, to remove any dirt.  I'm making six today.  Pat them dry in a few paper towels.  Using a fork, prick the skin of each one 16-18 times evenly around the surface.  

Note:  Pricking the potatoes is the step that allows steam to escape as the potatoes bake, which results in light, fluffy centers.

PICT2736~ Step 2. One at a time, place each potato in a shallow bowl or on a plate.  Drizzle each with about 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, and, using a pastry brush, paint the entire surface of each potato with oil.

Note:  If you are making the classic potato skins with melted cheddar, bacon bits and sour cream, paint the potato skins with the bacon fat rather than the vegetable oil.  Or, if you keep bacon fat on hand, feel free to use it instead of vegetable oil for fully-loaded taco tater skins.

PICT2739Step 3.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  A 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" pan will hold 6 potatoes, a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" pan will hold 8-12. Depending upon the size of the pan, sprinkle  2-4 tablespoons of coarse sea salt over the parchment. Arrange the oil-coated potatoes, well apart, on the prepared pan. Sprinkle more salt over the tops, about 1/2-1 teaspoon atop each.

PICT2737~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven about:

30-40 minutes for small potatoes

60-70 minutes for large potatoes

Potatoes should be very soft and tender when pierced with a fork, and, slightly-crisp on the outside. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle with your hands, about 20-30 minutes.

IMG_1686 IMG_1696~ Step 6. Using a serrated knife, cut potatoes in half horizontally and open them up like a book.  Using a paring knife and a tablespoon carefully scoop out the soft center from each half, leaving about 1/4" of potato around the sides and on the bottoms.  Note:  Use the knife to mark a 1/4" line around the sides -- not so deep as to pierce the skin, just to loosen the proper amount.

IMG_1702 IMG_1698~ Step 7. Return all of the potato skins to the pan, insides up. Melt butter in microwave.  Brush insides with butter, flip potatoes over and brush outsides.  Return to oven and bake, 6 minutes.  Note: I'm doing mine in two batches of six tonight because I have to take  a series of photographs.  It's complicated.

IMG_1714 IMG_1708                                          ~ Step 8. Remove potatoes from oven. Flip them over, insides up.  Return to oven and cook until edges are turning brown, 12-15 minutes.  This is an important step.  Give them all the time they need to crisp up.

IMG_1744 IMG_1719Step 9. Remove potatoes from oven and immediately (no time to waste here) add the grated cheddar.  

IMG_1721Return to oven and bake until cheese melts, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a paper-towel lined serving dish.

Dollop taco filling atop molten cheese... 

IMG_1760... add toppings & serve immediately!

IMG_1842This spud's for you: 

IMG_1886Super Sunday Spud Skins of the Taco Tater Type:  Recipe yields 12 fully-loaded taco tater skins, or, 12 appetizer servings or 6 main-course servings.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable brush; fork; pastry brush; baking pan; parchment paper; serrated bread knife; paring knife; tablespoon; 1-cup measuring container; cheese grater

IMG_8667Cook's Note:  If it's not a spud your interested in while swilling your suds, perhaps I can interest you in my ~ Tequila-Lime Skirt-Steak Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon) ~.  These are the original tacos, the ones made by our Tex-Mex ancestors. You can find this winning recipe in Categories 2, 10, 13, 17, 19 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015) 

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