I like bars. Love bars. High tone, low-key, big sprawling giants or holes-in the-wall, mahogany and brass or gum under the table. Love 'em. Give me a bar and a great drink any day at 5:00 and I'm a happy, happy girl.
The food in most bars, however, can leave a person relying on whatever is impaled on a toothpick at the bottom of their cocktail glass for sustenance. I decided to give potato skins, that ubiquitous mainstay of bar menus everywhere, an extreme makeover – the equivalent of the “works” from a team of globe-trotting trend-setting fashionistas. What came out from behind the curtain after the drumroll was delicious, stylish and not at all confined to cocktail hour...these skins have enough sass to take center stage at a sit-down dinner. Check out the line-up (publicity photos above):
Naked skin procedure:
Bake medium-sized russet potatoes, scrubbed clean of all dirt and debris, for 1 hour at 400 degrees, or until the spuds yield easily to a gentle squeeze. Cool to room temperature. Slice in half length-wise and, working carefully, dig out most of the flesh from each half with a small spoon. (You can save it and make soup or something if you're that kind of person.) Leave only a thin coating of flesh inside the shell, being careful not to cause any rips or tears in the skin. You can stop here and proceed with filling, but for extra-delicious and crispy shells, fry them flesh side down,until golden in vegetable oil, before salting and peppering, filling and broiling until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
Barbecue Chicken Skins
an homage to Spago
Combine shredded cooked chicken (I like the consistency and white-to-dark ratio of simply removing the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken) with barbecue sauce. Toss two parts coated meat with one part cheddar-jack cheese and generously fill the naked shells. Garnish broiled skins with green onion, and serve additional bbq sauce and plenty of ranch dressing on the side.
Stuff your spuds with freshly grilled or broiled shrimp and plenty of pepper-jack cheese. After broiling 'till bubbly, top with fresh mango salsa. Freaky delicious!
Mango salsa: Chop one large jar of mango in light syrup (available in the produce section) into large chunks. Add one jalapeño and one half a small red onion, both minced. Add two tablespoons of chopped cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.
Nacho-Topped Fiesta Skins Olé
Why the hell didn't someone think of this sooner?
Spread prepared skins with a thin layer of prepared spicy refried beans. Top with shredded cooked chicken or seasoned browned ground beef and a thick layer of cheddar cheese. Broil and serve with pickled jalapeños, salsa and sour cream.
Italian Skins Margherita
Oh, so much better than delivery
Spread prepared skins lightly with tomato or marinara sauce. Layer on fresh or aged mozzarella, basil and Parmesan cheese. Additional toppings might include (but are certainly not limited to): pepperoni, browned sausage, sliced mushrooms, bell peppers and onions.
Spud Photos by Lara Bierner