Tue Dec 27, 2011
As soon as Christmas is over, I switch from huge holiday roasts to full on party foods. New Years represents just the start of a few months that seem perfect to plop in front of the television, watch some basketball, and spend the night working through a plate of wings, ribs, stuffed jalapenos, or something of that sort—all great for tailgating too, but I personally prefer the comfort and warmth of my own home. One of my favorites in the winter-time rotation are potato skins, and this recipe adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook makes the best I've ever had.
I like using America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated/Cook's Country recipes as a base to expand upon. One main reason is they are filled with tricks that I would otherwise not think of. Case in point, giving the potatoes a kickstart on cooking by microwaving them. I would normally scoff at using the microwave, but this is pretty ingenious because you cover about 30 minutes of roasting in a mere 8 minutes in the microwave with no discernible difference in taste or texture in the end.
Let's take a quick break from the recipe for a second to admire a beautiful fire—one of the wonders of night time cooks in the winter.
Of course, microwave is not suitable for an entire cook, so the potatoes get their final roasting over indirect heat on the grill. With the spuds partially cooked, they now only take about 20 minutes to get soft all the way through, compared to 50-60 minutes if they were done on the grill alone.
Once the potatoes cool enough to handle, they're split, most of the flesh scooped out, then brushed with butter and seasoned and put back on the grill. This is the step where the potatoes become magical, with the exposed flesh and skins become crisp and crackling.
Then the good times keep coming with the addition of cheddar and bacon. Letting the potatoes keep cooking until the cheese starts to bubble and singe in areas is key here, it just intensifies the flavor and elevates them even higher on the "awesome party food" scale.
Finally, after a long, fantastic voyage, the skins are ready with a final dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of scallions. The first bite has a great crunch, followed by some still soft and creamy potato innards. The cheddar lends a bite, while the bacon adds the salty meaty portion, and the scallions kind of trick you into thinking this might be something fresh and good for you. The tangy sour cream tempers the heat of it all so you can get to eating these faster, which usually leads to them disappearing quicker than imagined. No worries though, the winter is long and there's still plenty of time for lots more potato skins, which is a given in my house.
Crispy Potato Skins with Bacon and Cheddar
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 50 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 1 Hour
- 4 servings
- 4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
- 8 ounces bacon, chopped fine
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup minced fresh scallions
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. While the charcoal is lighting, thoroughly prick the potatoes with a fork. Microwave the potatoes on high for 8 minutes, turning them over after 4 minutes.
- When the charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour the coals out and arrange them on either side of the charcoal grate, keeping the middle empty. Transfer the potatoes to grill, placing them in the middle of the grill, not over the coals, cover, and cook until a paring knife glides easily through the flesh, about 20 minutes. Remove from the grill, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and let cool.
- While the potatoes are on the grill, cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
- When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out and discard the flesh, leaving and 1/4-inch layer of potato on the inside of each skin. Brush the potatoes inside and out with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Move the potatoes back to the middle of the grill, cover, and let cook until they're light golden brown and crisp, about 7 minutes.
- Sprinkle the potato skins evenly with the cheddar cheese and bacon, cover, and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbly, about 7 minutes more. Remove from the grill, let cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with scallions and dollop with sour cream and serve.