Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rosemary Scented Salt Baked Potatoes with Compound Garlic Butter

Recently Cook's Illustrated featured an article on salt baked potatoes, which indicated that what was typically thought of as a gimmick actually did produce a better baked potato.  I was skeptical and with relatives visiting, decided it would be a good time for a test.

Ready for the Oven
The recipe called for placing a considerable amount of Kosher salt in a baking dish, adding rosemary sprigs and a garlic head, covering and baking at a very high temperature.  Following the directions precisely, the potatoes were ready to serve in about 1 3/4 hours.  While my family tasters found the potatoes were indeed fluffy, they didn't feel they were significantly better than my standard baked potato.  In fact, what seemed to impress them most was the compound butter made to top the potatoes, which certainly could be done without all of the extra salt and fuss. The rosemary and garlic scent during cooking was delightful however, and I did find the potatoes were more white and fluffy using this method. I also very much enjoyed eating the potato skin.  Overall I would say these are more akin to steak house baked potatoes.

If you have the time, give it a try. I modified the recipe below to double the compound butter, as everyone at the table wanted to add more.  If your not inclined to make these, follow my simple method, which is also noted below and produces an excellent potato with a delicious skin.

Rosemary Scented Salt Baked  Potatoes with Compound Garlic Butter
2 1/2 cups plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
2 sprigs plus 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
2 whole heads garlic, outer papery skin removed
5 teaspoons olive oil
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 450F.  Spread 2 1/2 cups salt in even layer in 13 x 9-inch baking dish.  Gently nestle dry potatoes in salt, as shown.  Add rosemary springs.  Cut off top quarter of garlic heads and add to baking dish cut side up.   Drizzle garlic cloves lightly with olive oil.  Cover baking dish with foil and crimp edges to tightly seal.  Bake 1 1/4 hours; remove pan from oven.  Increase oven temperature to 500F. 

Carefully remove foil from baking dish.  Remove garlic and set aside to cool.  Brush exposed portion of each potato with 1 teaspoon oil.  Return uncovered baking dish to oven and bake until potatoes are tender when pierced with a paring knife and skins are glossy, 15 to 20 minutes.

Once garlic is cool, squeeze root end until cloves slip out of their skins.  Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and minced rosemary to a smooth paste.  Remove any clumped salt from base of potatoes (holding with kitchen towel), and split lengthwise.  Squeeze inward at cut ends to open the potato and top with portion of butter and serve immediately.



Simple Baked Potatoes with Compound Butter
4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
2 tablespoons softened butter
4 tablespoons McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning

2 whole heads garlic, outer papery skin removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 tablespoons of softened European (cultured) butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grind of fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 450F.  Using your hands, coat each potato with softened butter and sprinkle with seasoning.  (If you don't have the noted seasoning, simply use coarse salt, fresh grated pepper, dried garlic garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.)  Cut off top quarter of garlic heads and place on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and close foil around garlic heads. Bake potatoes on oven rack along with foil-wrapped garlic.  Remove garlic from oven in one hour.  Bake potatoes for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until potatoes are tender when pierced with a paring knife.


Once garlic is cool, squeeze root end until cloves slip out of their skins. Using a fork, mash European butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and minced rosemary to a smooth paste. Blend in garlic. Split potato lengthwise. Squeeze inward at cut ends to open the potato and top with portion of butter and serve immediately.

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