With the onset of the cooler weather, my mindset and appetite have made a definite shift from the usual summer fare to cravings for comfort food. While each person’s definition of comfort food may be different, it’s pretty hard to ignore the satisfaction factor of potatoes and cheese. That’s why this cheesy skillet baked potatoes recipe is sure to hit all those comfort food check marks.
Summer hasn’t quite officially ended but the feeling of Fall is definitely palpable. I guess that’s just the nature of my profession as well. Being a teacher, the beginning of the school year always feels like Fall. I’ve always loved the Fall, even as a child. Vancouver has a reputation for being consistently rainy, but don’t believe everything you hear. A Fall day here can be utterly breathtaking. There’s a change in the air that makes me think of clean slates (no teacher pun intended) and fresh starts. Maybe it’s the smell of the trees and the colour of the leaves changing, or maybe it’s the way the air turns crisp and clear as it cools down but Fall is definitely my favourite time of year. It may have something to do with the fact that I would rather be cold than hot… it’s way easier to warm up than it is to cool down.
Speaking of warming up, there are lots of things you could do as a means to achieve that goal. Food is one of them. When I think of all the things that I love to eat, most of it is cool or cold weather food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not above slurping a giant bowl of rich and savoury ramen noodles on a 32 degree day in the middle of August. But it’s all the more satisfying when I’m not sweating buckets at the same time.
We had a friend of ours, Gio, over for lunch the other day. He’ has lots of experience and knowledge about the blogosphere, internet, and all sorts of other tech stuff. Gio has given us so much help and advice as of late, what with us trying to get our revamped site up and running and all, that when he offered to come out to our place to help us out some more, the least we could do was feed him a proper lunch! Since one of my favourite ways to celebrate or say thank you is through food, this was right up my alley. I was dealing with limited time to get this meal together so I didn’t get too crazy. But I did pull together some solid offerings. I also took into consideration that Gio is a health-conscious kind of guy so I wasn’t going to serve anything too overly rich.
What ended up happening was some simple, seasoned baked chicken, a spinach salad with oranges, sweet bell peppers, and a herbed dressing, and these yummy cheesy skillet baked potatoes. With the chicken and the salad being on the lighter side, I figured I could add a bit of oomph to the potatoes without too much complaint. This also gave me a way (other than baking fries on a sheet pan) to use the local, organic warba potatoes that I had just gotten at the farmer’s market! This was also my surefire way to get my eldest to actually eat something at lunch that day.
What is it about kids and potatoes? I think that E could eat potatoes for every meal in any way, shape, or form. Cubes, fries, wedges, mash. You name it, he’ll eat it. At this rate, I should start buying potatoes by the truckload.
While E isn’t too picky about which type of potato he’s putting in his mouth (russet, yellow, red, sweet), I myself prefer firm fleshed potatoes. I love the buttery quality that yellow potatoes take on when they’ve been cooked perfectly. I’m not a real fan of russet potatoes because I find them a bit mealy in texture. It’s not a bad thing and I wouldn’t judge you if you’re passionate about russet potatoes. It’s just not my thing. That’s all.
With that in mind, I was taking a bit of a gamble with these warba potatoes that I bought. They looked so fresh that I couldn’t resist them at the market stand for Cropthorne Farms. I had never tried them before so I had no idea what the texture would be like. I was about to play some potato roulette. But I knew that these babies would get eaten up regardless of whether I liked them or not. Did I mention E loves potatoes?
I was pleasantly surprised by these warba potatoes. If you’ve never had them before, I highly recommend them. They’re firm and creamy with a thin skin that reminds me of a new potato. Aside from this particular recipe, I think these potatoes would also be wonderful for hand cut fries, gratins, scalloped potatoes, salads, roasting, and mashing. Of course, it helps that I had an awesome new cast iron skillet to bake these potatoes in. Now this is an optional step, especially if you’re serving vegetarian guests, but I had fried some bacon in the pan before putting the potatoes in and chose not to wash it out. Yes, you heard me right. Why waste all that bacon-y goodness? The potatoes would only benefit from that little bit of hidden deliciousness sitting on the bottom of the pan!
Besides, cast iron pans get better with age and repeated use. It’s that “seasoning” that builds up over time that makes them so wonderful to cook with. It’s such a versatile and reliable piece of cookware that you’ll want to use it all the time anyway! I’ve only had mine for a couple of months but I love it already and can’t imagine why it took me so long to get one in the first place.
At this point, I had to level with you: this cheesy skillet baked potatoes recipe is more of a set of assembly instructions than a true recipe. My apologies if you’ve been misled, but it wasn’t intentional. I just figured that calling it an “assembly” or “instructions” or “procedure” didn’t make it sound particularly appealing from a food perspective. You’ll forgive me, won’t you? Thanks. You’re the best!
So without further ado…
Cheesy Skillet Baked Potatoes
serves 6-8 as a side dish
6 medium to large firm-fleshed potatoes (I used local organic warba potatoes)
1 cup of shredded marble cheddar cheese (or another gooey, melty cheese of your choice)
1 tablespoon of oil for greasing the skillet
oil for brushing the potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
optional: rendered bacon fat for bottom of the skillet
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Scrub your potatoes under running water and allow to drip dry briefly in a colander or on a tea towel.
Using a mandolin or very sharp kitchen knife, thinly slice each potato width-wise. You want each slice to be about 1/8 of an inch thick. Set the thinly sliced potatoes aside in a large bowl.
Grease your 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet of a similar size) with oil and place on the stove top. If you’re using the bacon fat, now is the time to put it in the bottom of the pan. Make sure you’ve got an even coating on the bottom of the skillet.
Arrange your first layer of potatoes in a circular pattern with the slices overlapping a bit. You want to cover the bottom of the pan in this pattern. Gently brush with oil without disturbing the pattern too much. Sprinkle with some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover with another layer of potatoes laid out in the circular pattern. brush with oil and sprinkle again with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue in this manner until you have used up all the potatoes.
Place the skillet over medium heat and wait for the potatoes in the skillet to sizzle. You want to help the bottom of the potatoes start to crisp and caramelize before the whole thing goes into the oven to finish cooking. Let the potatoes sizzle on the stove top for about 5-7 minutes.
Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the sizzling potatoes and cover the whole skillet with some aluminum foil. Make sure you use oven mitts of pot holders to help you press the foil over the top of the skillet. You want to trap some of the steam to help the potatoes cook evenly in the oven.
Turn off the burner and carefully place the covered skillet into your preheated oven. Set the timer for 40 minutes and walk away. Have a glass of wine. Read something. Write something. Listen to music. Have a piece of chocolate.
When the timer goes off, take the skillet out of the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Put the skillet back into the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes so that the cheese has a chance to brown and get crispy.
Once the cheese has melted and crisped, remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. This will give you time to get everything else on the table and to pour/refresh everyone’s beverages. Don’t worry, the potatoes will stay hot for a while.
To serve, cut into wedges and prepare yourself for some serious potato bliss.
What cheese would you throw on this? Let me know in the comments below. Going to give this Cheesy Skillet Baked Potatoes recipe a try? Share with us on Intagram by tagging @pepperwsalt in your photos!
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