Crispy Comfort Food: Loaded Baked Potato Skins

These early days of winter—with garden duties fading and the first cold winds causing us to crave classic comfort foods—inspired us to get creative with our bumper potato crop this week.

by John D. Ivanko
Loaded baked potato skins are a healthy appetizer that your family members can customize to fit their tastes. Photo courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock (
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock
Loaded baked potato skins are a healthy appetizer that your family members can customize to fit their individual tastes.

These early days of winter—with garden duties fading and the first cold winds causing us to crave classic comfort foods—inspired us to get creative with our bumper potato crop this week. Ironically, despite our love for all things potato, we’ve never made potato skins before and now have a big food crush on this renewed version of a classic appetizer.

Potato skins probably get caught in the stereotype of bad bar food. There are so many over-processed, greasy versions out there on appetizer menus that we forget they can actually be quite tasty and healthy. The nice thing about potato skins is that you can customize toppings and easily accommodate a family with different taste preferences.

Here’s the secret to our version of potato skins: Brush the skins with seasoned olive oil and then bake the skins solo before adding toppings. That step nicely crisps the skin so it is both enhances the flavors of what you add on top while also keeping the skin firm and easy to pick up and handle. We like to use our garden’s Russet potatoes, the classic baked-potato variety, for our potato skins, but you can readily use any type of potato. Feel free to also customize the seasonings that go into the olive oil; we’ve used anything from seasoning salt to oregano and thyme.

You can multiply this recipe to accommodate groups. The baked potato skins travel well on a jellyroll pan to potlucks, and we never come home with leftovers. The skins taste best fresh out of the oven and loose some of the crisp factor when reheated. If you do have leftovers, warm them up in a low oven to restore crispiness. Remember to save the insides of the baked potatoes for mashed potatoes or other dishes. We like to use the insides in a batch of our Fried Potato Latkes, recipe in our Farmstead Chef cookbook.

Recipe: Loaded Baked Potato Skins

Yield: about 6 servings

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  • 6 large baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika

Toppings (feel free to adjust based on your preferences)

  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or any melting cheese; try a combination of cheese)
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives or green onions
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prick clean potatoes about eight times with a fork. Bake for about 1 hour or until soft. If you’re in a hurry, microwave the potatoes (approximately 6 to 8 minutes for large potatoes, depending on your microwave).

Remove potatoes from oven, and raise oven temperature to 450 degrees F. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp from center of potato. (Use pulp in mashed potatoes or other recipes.) Leave at least 1/4 inch of potato still in shell (i.e., don’t scoop out all potato).

Mix olive oil with salt, basil, garlic powder and paprika. Lightly brush over both sides of potato skins and place insides facing up on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn potato skins face down, and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Remove potato skins from oven and sprinkle cheese, bacon and tomatoes inside skins. Bake 2 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with chives and sour cream, and serve immediately.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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