This past month my paying job and social calendar have prevented me from cooking creatively and posting on my blog. Not to complain about the paying job or social life, mind you! I actually enjoy what I do five days a week and am blessed to work with some of the best co-workers on the planet. However it’s busy season in the field of graduate medical education so my days are long and the weekends have been booked, and I’m tired. The most I have been able to do is throw some steaks on the grill and bake some potatoes last weekend for Father’s Day.
Ok so they weren’t your average “throw them in a 400° oven for an hour” baked potatoes, let me just say. They were fan-flipping fantastic, blog worthy baked potatoes, they were.
The credit for these best ever baked potatoes ever goes to Chicago Tribune columnist, John Kass, who took a break from Chicago politics and wrote a column on this unique baking method in November, 2012. In turn, Kass credits America’s Test Kitchen‘s Julia Collin Davison, who he refers to as the “Goddess of Baked Potatoes.” John made some changes to the ATK recipe. As he states in his column “…every cook futzes with another’s recipe.” And I, in turn, futzed around with Mr. Kass’s recipe. The true magic here lies in not the measurements but the technique itself.
They are indeed as the title indicates, russet potatoes baked on a bed of Kosher salt with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and whole garlic. Finished with a heavenly roasted garlic, rosemary butter, which I kicked up with a little truffle salt.
There is a science behind why this method works so well. Why the outside stays crisp and the inside melts in your mouth. I’m sure America’s Test Kitchen tested a thousand different methods before coming up with this one, singularly perfect way to bake a potato. Thank god for food nerds.
If you’re concerned that these potatoes will turn out “salty,” let me assure you that if you just brush off the bit of salt that sticks to the bottom of the potatoes, they are not salty at all. If you’re like me and think the best part of a baked potato is the skin, you’re in for a treat. My only reservation about this method was that it seemed like a waste of perfectly good Kosher salt (I am solidly in the “no food shall go to waste” camp). Then I remembered that I like to clean my cast iron pans with a little Kosher salt, and the leftover salt from the potatoes is perfect for this application.
Many thanks to Mr. Kass and the Goddess of Baked Potatoes for sharing this method and for elevating the humble baked potato to blog-worthy status.
Potatoes Baked in Salt, with Garlic & Rosemary Butter*
4 baking potatoes (see Note>), scrubbed and dried
2 1/2 to 3 cups Kosher salt
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 heads of fresh garlic
4 TBS unsalted butter, softened
Truffle salt and black pepper (optional)
1 baking pan (ideally 9×13)
Preheat oven to 450°. Spread salt in an even layer in pan and lightly place the 4 potatoes atop the salt. Important -> do not pierce the potatoes! Add two sprigs of rosemary along the sides of the pan. Cut a section off the top of each head of garlic and place at opposite corners of the pan. Cover the entire pan with foil, crimping the edges to ensure a tight seal. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and raise the oven temp to 500°. Remove rosemary sprigs and discard. Remove garlic heads and reserve. Lightly brush the tops of the potatoes with olive oil (do not move the potatoes). Return pan, uncovered, to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Meanwhile strip the leaves from the remaining sprig of fresh rosemary and finely chop (I usually end up with about 1 tsp). In a bowl, combine chopped rosemary and softened butter. Squeeze some of the garlic from the reserved heads of baked garlic and add to butter. How much garlic and fresh rosemary you add is up to you (this is where the “futzing” comes into play). Throw in a dash of truffle salt if desired and a grind or two of black pepper. Mix well.
Remove potatoes from oven and pick each one up with a towel, gently scraping salt off the bottom of each. Discard salt or save for another use. Place each potato on a plate and break open the top with a fork. Place a spoonful or two of the butter and serve.
Note> Brown skinned Idaho russet potatoes work best for this recipe.
* Recipe from Chicago Tribune’s John Kass and America’s Test Kitchen