I won’t bore you with the endless list of crime drama series we’ve been watching. It suffices to say that there have been a lot in the last seven months, often accompanied by dinner. You know that dinner on your lap means nothing drippy or hard to eat. Like you’re cooking for your own private buffet.
As a girl, when we were allowed to watch TV during dinner, my mother, who wasn’t much of a cook but had a very generous spirit about serving, would bring each of us kids a baked stuffed potato. The potatoes had been baked in an old-fashioned potato baker, the kind that has a griddle bottom with holes and a domed lid; the potatoes emerged slightly charred from being so close to the gas burner, with especially crisp skins. She scooped out the soft flesh, mashed it with butter, and packed it back into the skins. It’s ridiculous how good something that simple can be.
Steakhouses that wrapped potatoes in foil before baking nearly wrecked them for an entire generation, who might have thought that those soggy skins were the way potatoes should be. You want skins to be so hard they practically snap when you cut into the large spud.
You can bake any potato but if you want really fluffy flesh that soaks up butter when you mash it, you need to use starchy russets. Those are the large ballet-slipper potatoes that are grown in many places, including Idaho, the state they’re most connected to. They’re also grown in Maine; a variety called Caribou Russet, developed by the University of Maine in 2016, is very popular. In its online catalog, Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Fairfield, Maine, calls Caribou Russet “the best classic baked potato flavor we’ve found.”
To prepare them, scrub the potatoes, dry them, and rub them lightly with olive oil. Use your hands to do this. Then sprinkle with salt and send them into a hot oven for close to an hour, turning them so they bake evenly. Of course, you can stop right here and skip the stuffing part, but why would you? Make a shallow cross in the top of the potato, scoop out the flesh and mash it with butter and grated cheddar, then pop it back into the skins.
If you want to make it a meal, you’ll need something green on the plate. For that, steam broccoli florets, spread them in a baking dish, add a little oil, and slide them close to the broiling element to char. It transforms the florets so they’re a little sweet.
Tuck them into the mash and grab the remote.