Weekly Eats

Crispy Baked Potato Fans

This week’s (rerun) episode of Cooks Country on PBS featured Crispy Baked Potato Fans. They looked delicious and simple to prepare to I made them for Sunday dinner alongside a Classic Pot Roast with Root Vegetables.

Crispy Baked Potato Fans

Why this recipe works:

This stunning potato dish delivers a fluffy interior, a crisp exterior, and a cheesy bread crumb topping—if you can get the potatoes cooked right. For our Crispy Baked Potato Fans recipe, we found that using the right kind of potato is key. The russet, or Idaho, potato was the best choice because of its starchy flesh and fluffy texture. Taking the time to rinse the potatoes of surface starch after they were sliced prevented them from sticking together, while trimming off the end of each potato gave the remaining slices room to fan out. To prevent overcooking our spuds in the punishing oven heat, we precooked them in the microwave before baking. A topping of fresh bread crumbs, melted butter, two kinds of cheese, garlic powder, and paprika is the crowning touch on our Crispy Baked Potato Fans. As a final step in our Crispy Baked Potato Fans recipe, we broiled the potatoes to make the topping extra-crunchy.

Serves 4

To ensure that the potatoes fan out evenly, look for uniformly shaped potatoes.

Ingredients

Bread Crumb Topping

1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Potato Fans

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

1. For the bread crumb topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground. Bake bread crumbs on rimmed baking sheet until dry, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then combine crumbs, butter, cheeses, paprika, garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. (Bread crumb topping can be refrigerated in zipper-lock bag for 2 days.)

2. For the potato fans: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Following photos 1 to 3 at left, cut 1/4 inch from bottom and ends of potatoes, then slice potatoes crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals, leaving 1/4 inch of potato intact. Gently rinse potatoes under running water, let drain, and transfer, sliced-side down, to plate. Microwave until slightly soft to the touch, 6 to 12 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking.

3. Arrange potatoes, sliced-side up, on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush potatoes all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until skin is crisp and potatoes are beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and heat broiler.

4. Carefully top potatoes with stuffing mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Broil until bread crumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Crispy Baked Potato Fans

The potato fans were crispy on the outside with a tasty, cheesy topping yet fluffy on the inside. It’s so easy to make and looks a lot more elegant on the plate than your standard roasted or baked potatoes.

The pot roast that went with the potato was all sorts of fail — tough and dry — although I followed the recipe exactly. The sauce that went with it, however, was scrumptious and went great with the potatoes and biscuits. I plan on giving the pot roast recipe another shot but next time I’ll choose a fattier cut of meat; the chuck-eye roast I used was much too lean for this recipe.

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

The Cook’s Illustrated Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits were supposed to be the perfect accompaniment to the pot roast. The pot roast was terrible but the buttery, flaky biscuits sopped up that yummy gravy beautifully.

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Why this recipe works:

When testing buttermilk biscuit recipes, we found that flaky butter equals flaky biscuits. To get “flaky” butter, we abandoned the food processor and worked thin slices into the flour by hand. Next, we rolled and folded the dough to flatten the butter into thin sheets sandwiched between equally thin layers of flour. In the oven, the butter melted and steam filled the thin spaces left behind, creating the flaky layers that we desired for our flaky buttermilk biscuit recipe.

Makes 12 biscuits

The dough is a bit sticky when it comes together and during the first set of turns. Set aside about 1 cup of extra flour for dusting the work surface, dough, and rolling pin to prevent sticking. Be careful not to incorporate large pockets of flour into the dough when folding it over. When cutting the biscuits, press down with firm, even pressure; do not twist the cutter. The recipe may be prepared through step 2, transferred to a zipper-lock freezer bag, and frozen for several weeks. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before proceeding.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus additional flour for work surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cold, lightly floured and cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk, cold

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

2. Add shortening to flour mixture; break up chunks with fingertips until only small, pea-sized pieces remain. Working in batches, drop butter slices into flour mixture and toss to coat; pick up each slice of butter and press between floured fingertips into flat, nickel-sized pieces (see illustration at right). Repeat until all butter is incorporated; toss to combine. Freeze mixture (in bowl) until chilled, about 15 minutes.

3. Spray 24-inch-square area of work surface with nonstick cooking spray; spread spray evenly across surface with kitchen towel or paper towel. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of extra flour across sprayed area; gently spread flour across work surface with palm to form thin, even coating. Add all but 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to flour mixture; stir briskly with fork until ball forms and no dry bits of flour are visible, adding remaining buttermilk as needed (dough will be sticky and shaggy but should clear sides of bowl). With rubber spatula, transfer dough onto center of prepared work surface, dust surface lightly with flour, and, with floured hands, bring dough together into cohesive ball.

4. Pat dough into approximate 10-inch square; roll into 18 by 14-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, dusting dough and rolling pin with flour as needed. Following illustrations below, using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, fold dough into thirds, brushing any excess flour from surface; lift short end of dough and fold in thirds again to form approximate 6 by 4-inch rectangle. Rotate dough 90 degrees, dusting work surface underneath with flour; roll and fold dough again, dusting with flour as needed.

5. Roll dough into 10-inch square about 1/2 inch thick; flip dough and cut nine 3-inch rounds with floured biscuit cutter, dipping cutter back into flour after each cut. Carefully invert and transfer rounds to ungreased baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps into ball; roll and fold once or twice until scraps form smooth dough. Roll dough into 1/2-inch-thick round; cut three more 3-inch rounds and transfer to baking sheet. Discard excess dough.

6. Brush biscuit tops with melted butter. Bake, without opening oven door, until tops are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Fried Wontons

Fried is the only way I take my wontons. I’m not much of a soup noodle person, Vietnamese pho being the exception.

I typically fold my wontons into triangles when I fry them but I wanted to experiment with their shapes this time to see if it would make a difference in the crispness if I cut slits along the edges…and I think it did! When I fried the wontons this time I noticed that the wonton skins fried up with more of a bubbly, crunchy texture. The slits made it so the final fried wonton didn’t come out with an even triangular shape but the crunchier, crispier texture makes up for it in my opinion. I’m not sure if this was a fluke or not so I’ll give the slits a few more tries in the future to make certain.

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