Baked potatoes are filled with nutrition. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "When compared ounce-for-ounce, potato skin has more nutrients than the rest of the potato. Potato skin contains B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium and other nutrients. Potato skin also provides lots of fiber, about 2 grams per ounce. If you eat a medium baked potato, including the skin, you'll get nearly 4 grams of fiber, 2 milligrams of iron and 926 grams of potassium."
Those are excellent reasons to serve baked potatoes instead of peeling away all of that nutritious goodness for boiled or mashed potatoes.
For a special dinner, holiday celebration or just a regular family meal, you can take regular baked potatoes (split-open, steaming, with butter and sour cream) and fancy them up with any number of gourmet additions and presentation flair:
*Gourmet Additions to Baked Potatoes
Recipe websites such as FoodNetwork.com, AllRecipes.com and others are filled with baked potato recipes, from the classic sour cream and chives to upscale toppings, including caviar. Here are just some creative ingredients and food pairings to fancy up your baked potatoes:
--Cheeses such as Brie, goat cheese, gruyere, gouda, pepper jack and grated parmesan, for that cheesy comfort taste with a dash of gourmet flair.
--Ham and cheese. Again, taking comfort food and making it gourmet, mix tiny ham cubes with the creative cheeses mentioned above.
--Bratwurst and cabbage slaw, for a fall flavor that's also a winner for a tailgate party.
--Shrimp and Alfredo sauce. Not the healthiest dish in the world but creamy and touched with fresh, crispy shrimp curls.
--Lobster bisque. Make it thick and it will seep into those baked potato ridges for an indulgent, souplike dish.
--Chicken and guacamole. This may not be the most formal dish, but it gets the healthy nutrients of avocado into your family, and the creaminess works with the baked potato's melty heat.
--Pulled pork. Another fall favorite, a great pulled pork recipe, perhaps leftovers from yesterday's meal, can dress up a baked potato with a kick.
--Cranberry and Brie. This pairing says "Thanksgiving," so make it a part of your family's holiday menu.
--Jambalaya. Made fresh or as leftovers, your shrimp, sausage and spice dish will fancy up those baked potatoes and could make a full meal for your family.
--Curry. Top your potatoes with beef curry, chicken curry, whatever your favorite curry dish may be, for an exotic side dish.
--Hawaiian. Add a bit of pork or ham and some pineapple to your potato for the equivalent of a Hawaiian pizza.
--Goat cheese and spinach, either using fresh spinach or sauteing it with fresh garlic.
--Bruschetta, including tomatoes, fresh basil, chopped shallots, red wine vinegar and oil, mixed together before placing on top of your potato.
--Crab and lobster in a cheese sauce. For best results, use fresh seafood, cooked to crisp perfection, and place it on your potatoes either as chunks or shredded.
--Greek salad. Top your potatoes with olives, feta cheese and fresh tomatoes.
--Hummus. Whether classic, red pepper, jalapeno, lemon or your other favorite flavor, hummus provides smooth creaminess on your potatoes.
--Cajun salmon. Cook up your salmon with Cajun spices and top your potatoes with something that is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid and has a spicy kick.
When your baked potatoes are done, either in the oven or in the microwave, you have more options for plating and presenting them, rather than the traditional split-down-the-middle cut. Instead, take a sharp knife in one hand and use a clean potholder on your other hand to hold the potato in place on a cutting board, and starting 1 inch from the end of the potato, make several slices vertically to full completion at the bottom. This creates a "flair" effect for your baked potato, almost like fingers, that when spread onto individual serving plates can then be dressed up with your toppings.
Cut baked potatoes in half horizontally, and then slice off a thin layer of the end of that half to allow your baked potato "cup" to sit upright on a plate. Your guests or family members can then add their choices of toppings.
Create double-stuffed baked potatoes. When your potatoes are done cooking, use a spoon to scoop out the tender insides into a bowl. Add in small amounts of low-fat sour cream, cream cheese and cheddar cheese (or perhaps a gourmet cheese, shredded), and blend these ingredients together into a fluffy concoction. Then, either spoon the mixture back into your empty baked potato "shells," or use a press to make three florette shapes in the shell and sprinkle with paprika, and you have a fresh, stuffed baked potato that provides calcium as well as a great impression on the plate.
Serve one half of a plain baked potato situated next to a baked sweet potato for a color duo that provides extra nutrients via that sweet potato and its creamy baked insides.