I have this friend Stacey, my oldest friend in the world, who I have literally known since we were babies–there’s a picture of us when I was six months old and she was a brand-new little thing and I was trying to steal her bottle. When Sara and I were traveling last fall, I was so excited to see her and her mom (and her sister Shelly, but she’s not in the picture).
I am not naked under my cardigan, I promise. I was 3 months postpartum, so nude public speaking was not high on my to-do list.
Every time I see Stacey and her family, we talk and laugh and then at some point in the conversation, someone shares the tale of when Stacey and I were 8 and we went to dinner at a [fancy for Logan, Utah] restaurant. The server was asking everyone what they wanted with their meal, and all the adults and all the kids and all the almost-adult-kids enthusiastically ordered fries. Until they got to me. And I primly replied, “I’d like the baked potato.” I really don’t think I was that fancy of a kid, I just liked the sour cream and bacon…
I love me a baked potato. Crispy skin, tender, fluffy insides, what’s not to love?
I will tell you what’s not to love: a gummy, dense, yucky baked potato.
I’ve always subscribed to the rub-’em-down-with-shortening-and-bake-at-400-until-done method, but I recently saw this method in my copy of America’s Test Kitchen Best Recipes and Reviews 2013 and I was intrigued. I immediately thought of the baked potatoes from Outback (say what you will, haters, those things are good!)
You’re going to need 4 medium russet potatoes, 2 sprigs (plus a few leaves) of rosemary, a whole head of garlic, 4 teaspoons olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups of kosher salt. Yes, that’s 2 1/2 cups of kosher salt. Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of salt. Have faith, chickens.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wash the potatoes and pat them dry with a paper towel. Pour the salt into a 9×13″ baking dish.
Arrange the potatoes on top of the salt, kind of nestling the potatoes into the salt (but don’t worry about burying or covering the potatoes with salt). Make sure the potatoes aren’t touching. Then add the sprigs of rosemary. Slice top off of the bulb of garlic and add that to the salt (cut side up).
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Your house will smell like heaven, I am not kidding you (just in case you didn’t know, the smell of rosemary and roasting garlic makes me swoon).
When the potatoes are done cooking, remove the pan from the oven. Turn the oven up to 500. Carefully remove the foil and remove the head of garlic from the pan. Brush each potato with 1 teaspoon of oil. When the oven is heated, place the pan back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are baking at 500, combine 4 tablespoons butter, 1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary, and the entire head of garlic–just squeeze it straight from the papery skins into the butter. Add a little salt to taste, especially if you’re using unsalted butter. Set aside.
When the potatoes are done baking, remove from the oven and serve with the roasted garlic rosemary butter. Resist any temptation to nibble on the rosemary that you roasted. You will be sad. Not speaking from any firsthand experience here.
The verdict? Incredible baked potatoes. I personally think the skins are delicious–crispy and salty and kind of like potato skin chips (like there is such a thing). And the insides are fluffy and flavorful and sweet. The rosemary butter in the potato is incredible, but you could also omit the whole rosemary/roasted garlic step altogether if you just want to do the whole butter/sour cream/bacon/whatever else you put on potatoes thing.
Salt Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic & Rosemary
Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen
4 medium russet potatoes, washed and patted dry
2 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 head garlic, the top sliced off
2 sprigs rosemary, plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 450. Place the salt in a 9×13″ pan. Press the potatoes down into the salt, making sure they’re not touching. Add the sprigs of rosemary and the head of garlic, cut side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.
When the potatoes have baked for 1 hour, remove the pan from the oven and remove the head of garlic. Turn the oven to 500. Brush each potato with 1 teaspoon olive oil and return to the hot oven, uncovered. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are baking, combine the butter, 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, and then squeeze out the whole head of garlic into the butter and stir to combine. Serve the hot potatoes with the rosemary butter (although if you’d rather serve it with more traditional toppings, you can omit the garlic/rosemary step altogether).