A Potato By Any Other Name Is Still A Spud

Can  you eat carbohydrates and still lose weight? Experts say, “Yes, with lots of fiber.” And what food meets that description? The humble potato. And what’s the best way to prepare them? Baked, of course.

But before you reach for the butter and sour cream, think about making that potato both delicious and nutritious. In fact, the potato already has lots of nutrition built into it. It’s rich in vitamin C and potassium. If you eat the skin as well, and we think that’s a great part of a baked potato, you add tons of fiber. And all that fiber can help you feel more full and eat less and lose weight.

The potato is not the problem, really. It’s the other stuff. But before we explore other topping ideas, how about a look at how to bake a potato, bachelor style.

There are several ways to bake a potato. You can do it in the microwave, in the oven or a little of both. Since we want to eat the skin, first scrub the potato well under running cold water. Don’t use soap. Select a potato that is more cylindrical than ovoid, or more like a large medicine capsule and less like a football. These more rounded ends are particularly important if using the microwave. If you’re tempted to use anything other than a russet potato, don’t be. You could use a gold potato, but the skin isn’t really thick enough. Red potatoes don’t become fluffy like a good baked potato should. Stick to the tried and true.

Pat your ‘tater dry with a paper towel and pierce in random places all around the potato with a fork. If cooking in the microwave, place it on a safe plate and cook on high for about 20 minutes. You can also use the potato setting on the microwave, but I always like adding a little more time.

Another method is to coat the potato in extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake on the center rack of a 450ºF oven for about an hour.

In The Bachelor’s Kitchen, we prefer a hybrid method. First we cook the potato in the microwave for about five minutes while the oven preheats. Handling the hot potato carefully, we move it to a piece of foil, douse it with oil and salt, wrap it up and pop it in the oven. This reduces the oven time to about a half hour. We find that cooking the potato all the way in the microwave can lead to hard, overcooked ends. As with all hot foods, allow the potato to sit on the counter for about five minutes before doing anything.

Now it’s time to consider the toppings. Butter and sour cream with bacon bits are wonderful, but oh-so-fattening. So you might want to try something a little different, and healthier.

Your baked potato can become a culinary trip around the world. For Thai flavor, top with plain yogurt, curry powder, some chopped scallions and a pinch of salt. Use salsa and some Monterrey Jack cheese for a South-of-the-border touch. Add a few tortilla chips on the side and it’s a great meal.

Keeping in the direction, there’s a Tex-Mex style of topping using refried beans and cilantro along with the salsa. Chives are a popular potato topping and you can make that even better with low-fat cottage cheese. Make that creamier by puréeing it in a blender or food processor.

Go Greek by topping your spud with feta cheese, black olives and herbs. For a Mediterranean flare, add an olive tapenade and chopped fresh rosemary or parsley. Using pesto sauce and a cut up tomato you can have an Italian style. And if you want to keep it American go with either shredded cheese, a little crumbled bacon and sliced scallions. Or you can try ranch style dressing with scallions. And for a little more zip, add creamy horseradish to sour cream and put that on your potato. A little will go a very long way.

Not only can you get away from the butter and sour cream, but you can also get away from the heaps of cheese sauce, piles of bacon and scoops of ground beef. A baked potato is good food. Just be careful how you dress it up.