Dinner 911: Baked Potato Bar

What’s atop your fresh-dug spud?
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Right this very moment, while I am inside staying warm and dry, all the growers I know are putting in overtime (as if there’s anything else) to bring in the harvest. Every morning we wake to the glitter of frost and think, “How lovely!” They are thinking, “Hurry up!”

A few Sunday’s ago, my whole family pitched in at Backyard Gardens (BYG)  to unearth those tubers we so love in so many ways. (Hello, old friend stuffed baked potato.) Honestly, I thought Molly & Cece would last all of 13 1/2 minutes at the task. Yes, it’s backbreaking, it’s dirty, it’s tedious…

It’s also a treasure hunt. One that even hooks adults.

potato harvest

I was astounded to see the undying enthusiasm among everyone who helped out on that day to find every single one in the ground, to yelp with delight at the discovery of an especially humongous spud (the biggest weighed 1 3/4 pounds) and to groan when a poor helpless potato got stabbed with the garden fork. (No worries: those went into the bucket for staff lunches to come.)

As the sun slanted toward Chief Joseph Mountain, the girls helped BYG owner Beth weigh up the 100-pound bags that she’ll store and sell in bulk to her faithful customers and CSA members.

I think the crew would have worked ’til sundown (we harvested 650 pounds but didn’t even get to fork up those darlin’ fingerlings) if I didn’t call them all to supper.

A potato bar with all the fixin’s: sauteed chard, caramelized onions, black bean chili, homemade salsa, goat cheese, cheddar cheese, feta cheese–and all the butter and sour cream you could stand–was laid out on a table in the field.

With hands scrubbed as best we could, we sat on overturned buckets and feasted on those fresh-dug potatoes. Each person made their own combination of toppings for a personalized loaded potato to love. (Molly went for the classic butter and sour cream, Cece ventured into the black bean territory while I piled on chard with those onions and goat cheese, a trio I heartily recommend for your baked potato bar.)

In my searching for good toppings, I found few items you cannot put on top of a boiled/baked/microwaved/steamed whole potato in its jacket. They’re ideal for leftovers from curried vegetables to beef stew or even thick soups. And when the fridge is bare but for a lump of cheese and a limp broccoli stock? Put it on a hot potato.

potato harvest 2

We’re officially adopting this “happy meal” into our dinner rotation when homework and sports put a premium on quick and easy or what we parents call Dinner 911. I’m even thinking that this is the ideal menu for a Halloween Party.

So tell me, what are your favorite toppings for an out-of-the-ordinary baked potato?

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