One potato, two potato, three potato, four...seven potatoes heading in the oven door.
Chop up a few veggies, shred a little cheese, put the bacon in a frying pan and about an hour later...voila! Meet my friend, The Baked Potato Bar.
Baked Potato Bar and tacos have a lot in common, which in my house is a very good thing. They both offer an excuse to eat copious amounts of cheese. Score! They share the same serving dishes. They are consistently able to accommodate a major produce drawer clean out. They're a real crowd pleaser in that add what you like, avoid what you don't kind of way that only a Lazy Susan based meal can offer. And, they don't garner groans or silent grimaces when you set them on the table in front of a couple of kindergartners and a finicky second grader. So really, what's not to like?
The recipe below isn't really a recipe at all but rather, a launching off point. Don't have Cheddar? Use mozzarella, Colby Jack, Cotija, or what the heck, Roquefort instead. No olives? Diced tomatoes and a handful of (thawed) frozen corn are delicious, easy, pretty, and still totally kid-friendly. Try chopped spinach, edamame, avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream, salsa, chopped turkey, crumbled kale chips, black beans, leftover taco meat, or plain old butter. As long as you have a few potatoes, some oil, and salt, the rest is completely negotiable. Except the cheese. Don't skip the cheese. That would be blasphemy.
Baked Potato Bar
4-8 medium potatoes (depending on the number of people you'll be serving)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 strips bacon, cooked to a crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup diced ham
1 cup steamed, chopped broccoli
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup black olives
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup salsa
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Scrub the potatoes under cold water. Dry them thoroughly with a towel. Use a fork to poke several holes into each potato on all sides to help steam escape while they bake. Use your hands to rub olive oil all over the potato skins. Place the oiled potatoes on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Pop them in the oven for about an hour, give or take. You'll know they're done when the skin starts to crinkle and the inner potato feels soft.
While the potatoes bake, prepare the toppings. Cook the bacon. Steam and chop the broccoli. Warm the ham, shred the cheese, slice the carrots, you get the idea. Put all of the toppings out and let the troops self serve. You might be surprised what they choose.
When the potatoes are cooked through, use the prongs of a fork or a knife to pierce a lengthwise slit through the skin. Use your fingers (You may want a towel here. The potatoes will be screaming hot!) to push the flesh in and upward. Plop them on plates and have at it. Top away with the Baked Potato Bar.