Back in the day (I can say “back in the day” now that I am officially over 40) I bussed tables at Sea Galley. If you don’t know what Sea Galley is, picture Red Lobster with a 40 item salad bar (which sounds great in theory, but actually sucked because it was up to the bus people to fill).
They had a little song on their commercials with the lyrics “we’ve got crab legs” – and they actually had crab legs. I mean, they actually had foam rubber crab legs that the hostess would have to put on and venture out to the street to drum up business when the restaurant was slow (there was also a slightly inappropriate Christmas party that involved half a santa suit and said crab legs.
They were one of those “would you like rice, french fries or baked potato with your entree” kind of places. I noticed they did something kind of ingenious. At the end of the night, any left over baked potatoes (the ones that had been cooked but not served) were split open and prepped to be used for potato skins. The inards that had been scooped out were then used in the clam chowder. Thus, no potato waste.
This story really has nothing to do with my recipe, other than the fact that my love of potato skins was developed, and perfected, during my tenure at Sea Galley. Really, it’s hard to find a bad potato skin, I mean, what’s not to like? You’ve got potato, cheese and bacon, it’s really hard to go wrong. However, there are levels of “good” and I think these potato skins are exceptional. Mine have, of course, bacon (I happen to have used my own home-cured bacon but any good bacon will do), and really sharp cheddar. But they also have a layer of sauteed red onion to amp up the deliciousness.
Here’s the ingredients.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter in a small sauce pan then add the garlic and smoked paprika.
Give it a stir and leave it on the stove so that it stays warm.
I like to cook the onion in a bit of bacon fat, so once the bacon has been cooked crisp, remove it from the pan, reserving a bit of the fat, then toss in the onion. Let it cook at medium heat until is is soft and translucent.
While the butter is melting and the onions are cooking, prep the potatoes. Cut each in half (if they are really thick you may want to cut a little out of the center of each one so that each half is about 3/4 inch thick). Then, using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato from each half.
Leave enough potato so that each half will keep it’s shape when you pick it up.
Put the potato halves on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with foil) then brush the skin sides with the butter mixture.
Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Take them out and flip the potatoes over and brush with more butter (don’t get to carried away, if lots of butter pools in the potato half the potato skins will be greasy). Bake for another 8 minutes. This helps to make the potato skin crispy before the toppings are layered on.
Once baked, spoon about a tablespoon of cooked onion into each half.
Then layer on the cheese and the bacon (I seemed to have got excited about the prospect of potato skins at the point because I forgot to take a picture).
Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese, then sprinkle on a few chives.
The smoky paprika and garlic add a nice flavor to what might be a rather bland skin. The onions add a lovely sweetness that is a great contrast to the tang of the sharp cheddar. I like to leave the sour cream on the side so it doesn’t get melty on the warm skins.
Of course, now you’ve got a bunch of potato guts on your hand. You could do what they did at Sea Galley and use them in soup. Or, you could combine the potato, along with any leftover onion, a little of the extra cheese, maybe a teaspoon of the butter mixture and a dollop of sour cream…
…and put it in a little baking dish (and top with a little more cheese).
Then bake it at 350 degrees, covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered for 15 more to make a delicious potato casserole for lunch the next day.
Almost as good as the potato skins themselves.
Russet potatoes work exceptionally well in this recipe, however, if you would like smaller, two bite, potato skins, feel free to substitute small red potatoes. You will need two or three red potatoes for every russet potato called for.
4 russet potatoes, baked
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, fat reserved
1 red onion, chopped
6-8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon chives
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in garlic and paprika. Heat for 15 seconds to cook the garlic, then turn off the burner.
In a skillet, heat the reserved bacon fat. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Set aside.
While the onion cooks, prep the potatoes. Cut each potato in half to approximately 3/4 inch thick. Using a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato in the skin.
Place potato halves skin side up on a baking sheet and brush with the butter mixture. Bake for 8 minutes then remove from oven. Using a spatula, turn each of the potato halves over and brush lightly with more of the butter mixture. Return pan to oven and cook for an additional 8 minutes.
Into each potato half, layer about a tablespoon of sauteed onion followed by cheese and bacon. Bake for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle potato skins with chives and serve with sour cream.