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5 Best Potato Recipes. Ever.
Sometimes it feels like food's getting fancier and more expensive whether you're browsing recipes for a dinner at home or perusing a restaurant menu for a dinner on the town.
Walking through the supermarket, there are 10 types of cheddar cheese from good-ol' Maine and Vermont, not to mention French-models with hard-to-pronounce names like Gruyere, Camembert and Brie. Where there used to be a couple different types of sausage (Polish or links) there are dozens made from beef, pork, chicken or tofu plus what seems like a million different flavors - jalapeno cheddar, apple-smoked bacon, herbs and garlic and the omnipresent Gruyere.
Fancy varieties don't come cheap. You'll spend nearly twice as much for your fancy cheeses and exotic vegetables as you would for the run-of-the-mill versions.
But don't despair, Baked Potatoes are a great way to enjoy a frugal lifestyle and the finer things in life.
The Awesome Baked Potato
Baked Potatoes are great, because they're an inexpensive carbohydrate whose flavors complement nearly anything. They work great with traditional flavors like bacon, chives and sour cream, and equally well with fancy-schmany substitutes. Bring on the onions caramelized in the fat of nitrate-free applewood-smoked uncured bacon, topped with crispy bacon bits and fried bits of shredded potato.
If your heart just gave a hiccup, you could settle for Swiss chard sauteed in butter, topped with apple curls and a sprinkle of fair trade cinnamon.
Here are just a few reasons why potatoes are a go-to-food:
- Customization: Trying to feed your kids, your spouse or your friends your fancy new meal concoction is more trouble than it's worth. Individual potatoes allow everyone to fix their own meal their own way.
- A Little Goes a Looooong Way: Dressing up potatoes stretches your fanciest ingredients so you can enjoy them longer. You could make a Gruyere grilled cheese and live with both the cost and the calories. Or your could stuff your potato with broccoli and melt a quarter the amount of cheese on top. It's just as tasty on the lips and much less sticky on the hips!
The Magic Potato Formula
So what's the secret of perfect potato toppings? It's pretty simple:
Texture + Fat + Filler = a Healthy, Happy Potato
Baked potatoes are pretty mushy and relatively tasteless. Texture makes the potato interesting to your teeth. Fat makes it delicious, and interesting to your tastebuds. Filler takes up space so you don't drench your potato in fat, turning an otherwise healthy meal into a nightmare.
Bacon bits are the most common texturizing topping for baked potatoes. Bacon bits have a bit of flavor, but it's usually lost in the mounds of cheese, sour cream or other fatty ingredients.
They're also pretty attractive when contrasted against the white potato and other toppings. Nevertheless, the part that makes them really attractive is the **Crunch**. The explosion of salty, bacon-y goodness is an added bonus.
Lots of other toppings provide the same texture benefits as bacon. In fact, almost anything fried works like a charm.
- Fried, hashed potatoes. Think very crispy hash browns.
- Kale chips or collard chips. Throw the greens on a panini grill for about 30 seconds to crisp them quickly. Then crumble them on top of your potato for a healthy, crispy garnish.
- Salted nut pieces. Try gourmet spiced mixed nuts roasted in savory seasoning like Old Bay Seasoning.
The Filler is the truly exciting part, and where you get the most bang for your buck. Instead of serving lobster, which requires an entire tail per person. Serve lobster-topped baked potatoes. A single lobster tail sliced then, roasted in butter and served atop baked potatoes serves 4 people or more.
A few more fillers where a little goes a long way:
- Seafood (crab, shrimp, salmon or lobster)
- Filet Mignon, even bacon-wrapped filet. Sliced thin so it fits in the potato crevice
For healthy alternatives, fill the potato with veggies and use the meats as the fat layer
- Broccoli, Asparagus
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- All sorts of salad
The fat layer is the calorie-intensive topping that makes the potato really interesting. If you're watching our waistline, fill the potato with vegetable fillers, and use just enough fatty toppings to cover the green stuff.
Almost anything works here. You can use a variety of meats or cheeses. You can also use eggs. For a great breakfast potato, fill the potato with broccoli and tomato, top with an egg and microwave or bake until the egg cooks.