A baked potato bar is wonderful for a casual party, since guests can choose which toppings they like and serve themselves--and the recipe is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd. Alternately, you could top the potatoes in the kitchen and serve them with grilled steaks or chicken.
6 large baking potatoes, such as russet (about 11 oz. each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 tsp. kosher salt
About 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Toppings 3 Ways (each is enough for 6 potatoes)
12 ounces cooked Mexican chorizo*
1 1/2 cups crumbled queso fresco*
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup crema* or sour cream
8 ounces thinly sliced corned beef, warmed in a frying pan, then roughly chopped
About 1/4 cup bottled Thousand Island dressing
1 cup drained sauerkraut
1 cup roughly shredded Gruyère (about 4 oz.)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
1 1/2 cups pesto
1 pint sliced cherry tomatoes
6 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 425°. Prick potatoes all over with a fork, then rub with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap each in foil.
Put potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until a fork slides in without resistance, about 1 hour.
Carefully unwrap each potato, then score a large oval into top of potato with a sharp knife, almost to edges of potato. With a grapefruit spoon or soup spoon, dig into potato to remove about a third of it; save the cooked potato for another use, such as potato pancakes.
With a fork, fluff up remaining inside of potato (this helps toppings permeate the potato), leaving about 1/4 in. of firm potato "shell." Top with your choice of topping combinations. If you like, put potatoes back in oven for a few minutes to heat or melt toppings. Serve any extra topping on the side.
*Unlike Spanish chorizo, which is firm and cooked, Mexican chorizo is soft and raw, and must be cooked before eating; squeeze it from its casing and sauté over medium-high heat until broken up into small bits and well browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Find good-quality Mexican chorizo at Latino markets--which is where you'll also find queso fresco (fresh cheese) and crema (Mexican-style sour cream).
Note: Nutritional analysis is per potato, without toppings.
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