A mild flavor and a perfect pocket for spice reception make baked potatoes ideally suited for dressing up at the dinner table. No matter what meal you serve, you can find the right spice to enliven your starchy side -- or even feature it as a main course. The baked potato is nutritious, versatile, family-friendly, and easy-to-prepare, so you're only limited by your imagination.
Before baking, rub the skins with 1 tsp. olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Break into the steaming potato, and embrace the classic American touch of simplicity with a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Dollop with butter or sour cream to enjoy the full flavor of the potato itself. Shredded cheese, broccoli, and bacon bits are other flavorful varieties to complement the salt-and-pepper base.
Add a kick to a bland russet by blending to taste paprika, cayenne powder, chili powder, onion salt, garlic powder and parsley. Onion salt, cumin, and a spoonful of salsa add panache to a Mexican meal. If it's a spicy curry taste you're after, try a blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cilantro, red chili powder, salt, mustard seeds and cumin; about 1/2 tsp. of each yields an Aloo Gobhi taste.
If pasta isn't on the menu, lend your potato a Tuscan-inspired flair by sprinkling with cinnamon, garlic powder, rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, oregano leaves, sea salt, and ground red pepper. Pesto sauce and mozzarella cheese round out the effect.
If the classic potato route isn't for you, try one of these less traditional options. Creativity and willingness to experiment develops a unique taste that is all your own. Go sweet with a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar; add mini marshmallows or maple syrup for a dash of decadence. Sail to the Mediterranean with sliced olives, oregano, red onion, tomato, feta cheese, and plain yogurt. Finally, tarragon, fennel and Asiago cheese lend a lovely au gratin feel to a baked potato.
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