TBT not only to high school, but to That Egg-Free Life circa February 2015!
How to Make the Ultimate Baked Potato Bar
You’re going to laugh at me when I tell you where I got the idea for this recipe. It was from my high school cafeteria!!! My favorite lunch at high school was baked potato bar. There is something so satisfying about eating an entire potato in one sitting. As a very small person, I would usually eat half of a potato when my mom made potatoes as a kid. But at school, when both the main course and the vegetarian option was a baked potato, the potato was king! I should point out to you, before you ask why I didn’t just bring my lunch from home, that I attended a hipster-hippie-liberal-arts-prep-school for high school, and lunch was included in tuition and was often actually delicious. Everyone else’s favorite day was curly fries day, but I preferred baked potato bar day because apparently I prefer potatoes in their original, unprocessed form. Isn’t that more hipster than curly fries anyway? Haha, just kidding.
So the baked potato bar in high school was pretty basic, but here, I have kicked it up a notch to be the baked potato of your dreams. And yes, if I was on a Food Network competition show and they said to make your best recipe starring the humble potato, this is what I would make. Here I have added extra protein with three types of cheese and also chicken.
This recipe can be made free of most of the top allergens except for dairy because I don’t believe in eating an entire potato with no butter on it unless, by some lucky chance, you are in a kosher home for dinner, and they are offering you homemade brisket with your potato. There is an option for breadcrumbs and egg on the chicken. When I made this recipe, I did so with my buddy who does have an egg allergy, so we did not use breadcrumbs or egg. You can omit the chicken and bacon and make this a vegetarian or dairy/kosher meal. If you believe in margarine and vegan cheese, I suppose it could be a good vegan dish.
Personally, what comes to mind when contemplating vegan cheese, is the scene where the Worst Cooks in America season 3 recruit Benjamin is instructed in cutting tofu into cubes, and he says, “I eat animals. Things that have parents.” Not a lot of people would have the nerve to say that, but when I think about making recipes free of as many major allergens as possible, I have to say that we do depend a lot on the flavors of meat and butter. Additionally, vegan cheese is made with soy, which is one of the major allergens!
This recipe is also REALLY NOT KOSHER.
Anyway, I hope you’re still reading after this very long intro, and here AT LONG LAST is the recipe!
You will need…
4 russet potatoes
1 medium package of good-quality bacon
1 block of extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 block of parmesan cheese
1 block of fontina cheese
1 yellow onion
1 small package of chicken breast tenders, approx 8 pieces
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil for cooking
Butter for cooking
Butter for the potatoes
If desired: seasoned Italian breadcrumbs and 1 egg
Bake the potatoes in your oven at 425 degrees for about an hour. It’s very easy to tell when baked potatoes are done because you can cut into one, and it will either look and feel like a raw potato, or a cooked potato. I recommend looking for 4 potatoes that are the same size so they will all be ready at the same time
The first step while the potatoes are in the oven is to caramelize the onion and shallots. Take off the skin and slice them thinly. Heat a small pan with a generous amount of butter over medium-low heat, and add the onions and shallots. You should hear a bit of a sizzle. Turn the heat down to low and stir. Salt the onions and shallots. Let cook for approximately half an hour, stirring every few minutes. Taste after they’ve been cooking for about 25 minutes. Once you’re happy with the texture and caramel-ization level, set them aside.
The next step is to cook the chicken. To keep this dish egg-free, you can cook the chicken as-is. If you are able to eat eggs and Italian breadcrumbs, you can slightly up the fanciness level by coating the chicken in a bowl of beaten egg and then dipping in a plate of Italian breadcrumbs. Salt the chicken. Prepare your pan over medium heat and add a pat of butter and several swishes of olive oil so the pan is well-coated, but remember, we are sautéing, not deep-frying!
Slice your 2 cloves of garlic and add them to the pan. Cook for one to two minutes, then remove the garlic and immediately add the chicken. (You should discard the garlic.) Cook the chicken until it is nicely browned on one side, and white will be creeping up the edges of the side that is facing up. When that happens, you will know it is time to flip the chicken. Flip the chicken and cook it through. If it starts to burn on the bottom before it is cooked through, flip it. I always like to cut into one or two pieces of chicken to be absolutely sure that they are cooked through all the way because nobody wants to serve raw chicken. Make sure the thickest piece is cooked through.
Set the chicken aside on a plate. Now is a great time to cook the bacon!
Here’s how I learned to cook bacon: Separate the slices of bacon from the package and line them up on a plate. Now wash your hands. Heat up a pan on medium and use a fork to put a tester piece of bacon in when you think the pan is hot. When you hear the sizzle, fill the pan with bacon. Do not crowd the pan.
Flip the bacon often until the meat is cooked through and much of the fat has rendered off. You will want to get out an empty jar and spoon the fat from the pan into the jar so that you don’t deep-fry or burn the bacon. When you’re done cooking, seal the jar well, throw out the jar, and take out the trash. No one likes the smell of bacon fat the next morning at breakfast.
As each piece of bacon is done, take it out with your clean fork (this is a different fork than you put the bacon in the pan with because we are talking about not getting trichinosis here!) and put it on a plate lined with a paper towel. Continue to cook the entire package of bacon. Set aside.
It is now time to turn your attention to the cheese. You know how much your dinner companions love cheese. If they REALLY, REALLY love cheese, you obviously need to grate more of it than if they simply want a taste of cheese. Use a small plate or bowl for each of the three cheeses.
Here’s where it all comes together. If the chicken is getting cold, you can briefly microwave it. On the table or counter, gather the plates of chicken, bacon, cheese, onions and shallots, your your salt and butter containers, and give each person a potato. If cooking wasn’t fun enough, customizing your potato with toppings galore is really a blast. Bon appétit!
This is a true TBT to 2015 with all of my notes and stories from that original weebly 😉 And I STILL LOVE BAKED POTATO BAR. So, buon appetito!