I have the unique ability to develop anxiety around any issue, and right now that issue is food—particularly the food currently in my fridge. Aside from acquiring a few too many eggs, I think I did a good job stocking up on the right amount of food required for physical distancing and isolation, but every perishable item now sits in my refrigerator, threatening to go bad, and right now, throwing out anything feels like a crime.
Luckily, potatoes exist, and they are the perfect vehicle for every leftover, every anemic vegetable, every scrap of cheese, and every glug of about-to-expire salad dressing. And they’re fun. No one has ever remained sad while eating a hot, buttery baked potato loaded with stuff. It cannot be done.
There are no real rules for building a baked potato bar, provided you cook your potatoes properly. Slather them with fat (like bacon grease or Crisco), sprinkle them with salt, stab them a few times with a fork, then pop them in a 220-degree C oven for 50-60 minutes until the skin is crisp and the insides feel completely soft when tested with a fork. Remove the potatoes from the oven, and let them cool for five minutes before loading them up.
While the potatoes cook, you have plenty of time to prepare your fixings. Shred that leftover rotisserie chicken, chop up a single pork chop and warm it in butter, or fry up some bacon. Crumble cheese, dice roasted vegetables, and gather any random pickles and sauces that may be hiding in the back of your fridge.
Personally, I used this opportunity to fry some fat jowl bacon lardons, then blistered some cherry tomatoes I had hanging out on the counter in the rendered bacon fat. I used the resulting tomato-y, smokey grease to sauté a lonely half onion, then set it all out in little bowl alongside some shredded cheese, chopped green onion, a half-head of roasted garlic, and said various pickles and sauces. Oh, and sour cream. Of course there was sour cream.
If you are feeding your family—and I suspect a lot of you are—don’t worry about having “enough” of every item for every person. The point is to use up all those little languishing bits, so it’s ok if everyone’s potato looks a bit different. I do think the potato baker should get first dibs though; it’s only fair.