Imagine if you took the idea for a “bloomin’ onion” and tried it with a potato, but instead of deep-frying, you baked it. Someone did that, and the results are outstanding.
The result is a baked potato you could eat with your hands if you wanted to. There’d be crispy edges all over it, making it sort of like French fries that you pick like petals from a flower.
Unlike a bloomin’ onion, which is pretty much limited to the role of appetizer for the table at a casual restaurant, the potato is quite versatile. Do it with small red or Yukon gold potatoes, and each one is a delightful little appetizer. A large Russet potato would make a delicious side dish that will delight and confound your guests, as it looks kind of fancy but screams out to be eaten with the fingers.
Throw on a bunch of cheese, some bacon or whatever you like on your loaded baked potato, and it becomes a main course.
Scotty’s Steak House in Springfield, New Jersey, claims to have invented the bloomin’ onion in the 1970s, and it is synonymous with Outback Steakhouse, having been on their menu since the chain opened in 1988, but a potato variation goes back much, much further.
Hasselback Potatoes originated in Sweden in the 1700s and have nothing to do with either a formerly famous American actor or news personality. They were the namesake dish of the restaurant at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. Hasselback Potatoes, called “hasselbackspotatis” in Sweden, are cut into more of a fan shape than a petal shape. A long baking potato is cut into slices that don’t quite go all the way through, keeping the potato in one piece but allowing it to fan out as it bakes, making a Swedish baked potato a decidedly more swanky tuber than its American variation.
And if the cutting instructions seem to complicated, just make quarter inch apart cuts in one direction and then in the other, being careful not to cut all the way through. A chopstick laid on each side of the potato to stop your knife from going to the bottom is a real help in getting the cuts equally deep, close to the edge without cutting through.
All of the above techniques work equally well on sweet potatoes which can be taken in either a sweet or savory direction. Thyme, Thai chiles and fresh ginger or garlic and olive oil are all savory possibilities, or you can reference Gramma’s sweet potato casserole and season with nutmeg and cinnamon and serve them up with a marshmallow cream dipping sauce.
The possibilities are endless.
Bloomin’ Loaded Baked Potatoes
4 large russet baking potatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tsp. kosher salt
4 slices crispy bacon, crumbled
4-5 slices of cheddar cheese, cut into smaller pieces
Green onions, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°F, place a rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Turn one of the potatoes on its side and cut off the top portion of it about a 1/4” from the top creating an oval slice on the top. Using a paring knife (small thin blade) insert it in the top of the potato making small rings – space them out about 1/4” apart. You want to insert the blade almost all the way down to the bottom of the potato, but do not go all the way through the other side. Next, turn the potato over on the cut side and taking the tip of a sharp knife make cuts starting all the way around. It is important to leave a 1” rectangular piece uncut – this is what will help “bloom” your potato. Flip the potato back over and repeat the above steps on the remaining ones. Place the cut potatoes (oval ring cut side facing up) on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for 45 minutes, remove from the oven, drizzle the tops with more olive oil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and carefully insert the cheese slices into the wedges of potatoes being careful not to pry them apart. Add the bacon and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Plate and top with green onions and sour cream on the side.
Garlic Rosemary Bloomin’ Grilled Potatoes
Bloomin’ potatoes work well on the grill, a good thing to know with summer approaching.
4 tsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. shredded parmesan
Ground black pepper
Cut the top off of a potato and use a small, thin, flexible knife to cut rings around the inside of the potato. Flip the potato over and make cuts all the way around the potato, leaving a small space at the top uncut. Put the potato on a large piece of heavy duty foil. Brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, rosemary and one teaspoon of minced garlic. Tightly wrap the foil around the potatoes and grill over medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Carefully unwrap the foil and top with the potato with 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of shredded parmesan cheese. Wrap the foil back around the potato to allow the cheese to melt.
8 (6 to 8 ounces each) long baking potatoes
1/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
5 tbsp. butter (melted), divided
1 tsp. paprika
Coarse salt, to taste
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley (garnish), optional
When shopping for potatoes, look for potatoes that are firm and smooth. Avoid potatoes with wrinkled or wilted skins, soft dark areas, cut surfaces, and those that are green in appearance. Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil a large shallow glass baking dish. Place oven rack in middle of the oven. Rinse and scrub the potatoes thoroughly before using. Peel the potatoes.
Place the peeled potatoes on a cutting board and cut a narrow 1/4-inch slice from the bottom of each potato; discard the slice (this helps the potato lie flat and not roll). Place two long handled wooden chopsticks on each side of the potato lengthwise. Use a sharp knife and slice each potato crosswise, making 1/4-inch apart slices, cutting down vertically. The chopsticks will prevent the knife from cutting entirely through the potato. You need to leave 1/4-inch of the bottom of the potato intact. As you finish cutting each potato, drop them into cold water to prevent discoloring. Gently flex the potato fans open while rinsing under cold running water. This rids the potatoes of excess starch that can impede fanning. Dry potatoes well before baking. (Potatoes may be prepared in advanced to the above point. Place potatoes in cold water (to prevent discoloring) until ready to bake. To bake, dry potatoes well.) Place the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon melted butter, paprika, and salt in a food processor; process until blended. Brush prepared potatoes with 2 tablespoons melted butter (making sure some gets in the potato cracks), and pat the prepared cheese/bread crumb mixture on top of each potato. Place potatoes in the oiled baking dish; cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes until they turn crispy and the flesh is soft. Potatoes are done when the internal temperature registers approximately 200°F. on your cooking thermometer. Remove from the oven. To serve, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle minced parsley over the tops of the baked potatoes. Serve immediately.
Blooming Sweet Potato
A blooming sweet potato is served with a marshmallow cinnamon dipping sauce.
1 sweet potato
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. olive Oil
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
1-2 tsp. half & half
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425°F. Scrub the sweet potato, pat dry and cut in half lengthwise. Make circular cuts around the inside of the sweet potato and a slit through the center. Flip the potatoes over and make cuts all the way around the sweet potato without cutting the center/middle. Mix together 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Spoon the mixture over the cut sweet potatoes, allowing it to seep into the cuts. Rub the outside of the potatoes with the same mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 30 minutes at 425°F. Drizzle each half with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Continue baking for 30 minutes longer. Mix together marshmallow cream, half & half and cinnamon. Spoon into dipping cups. Serve marshmallow cream dip with the blooming sweet potatoes.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.