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Potato Skins: The convenient, top-with-anything, flavor delivery vehicle

Skin is where all the nutrients are, right? You can justify plenty of guilt-inducing toppings if you just have the right mindset.

A good old standby, perfect for dipping, dunking, or topping, potato skins are extremely versatile. The recipe below is of the all-time favorite Tex-Mex variety, but potato skins are s particularly good blank canvas, yielding themselves to all manner of cheeses (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Swiss, Blue, or even chunks of Camembert or Saint Andre for those of you who love smellier cheeses), salsas, bacon crumbles, chopped greenery (scallions, chives, cilantro, oregano, tarragon, or parsley), not to mention sour cream.

If the skin-nutrient argument is not winning you over, skip the cheese-melting step and try topping each skin with a bit of Greek salad: well-chopped romaine, thinly-sliced red or green onions, chopped kalamata olives, crumbled feta, and halved cherry tomatoes tossed with a simple vinaigrette.

Crispy Potato Skins
16 pieces

 

Bake until tender:
   Four 8-ounce baking potatoes
Let cool completely. Cut each potato lengthwise into quarters. With a teaspoon, scoop out most of the pulp, leaving a 1⁄4-inch shell. Arrange the potato skins on a baking sheet, cut side up. Combine:
   6 tablespoons butter, melted
   1 tablespoon chili powder and/or 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

Brush on the potato skins. Season generously with:
   Salt
The potatoes can be covered loosely and refrigerated up to 12 hours. Shortly before serving, set a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. Bake the potato skins until very brown and crisp, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with:
   1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar (4 ounces)
   (8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled)

Return to the oven until the cheese begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Serve at once, accompanied with:
   Sour cream, any salsa, and cilantro

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Note: If you cannot find ramps, feel free to substitute garlic chives, which have a very similar flavor, shallots, or even leeks. In any case, you'll want about 1/4 to 1/3 cup minced onion....