It almost seems ridiculous to write a post about this topic, except that A. it has gotten cold enough where my body is craving these and B. my microwave conked out this weekend. Jacket Potatoes and I first became acquainted when I was living and working in London many years ago. We didn’t have a company cafeteria with lots of choices for lunchtime. Instead, they had a room the size of a large supply closet that was called the “canteen” where they sold sandwiches and soups. The only hot-ish option for a meal was a baked potato (in its skin, hence the “jacket”) filled with some of the several options for toppings.
From time to time, especially as the weather gets colder or when I get really run-down, I get a craving for them. I think I used to drive the canteen staff crazy as I wanted mine with tuna and then cheese melted on top of the whole thing. Try as I might to explain the concept of a tuna melt (it’s sort of like that, right, with potato instead of bread) to them, they just thought the whole thing was disgusting. On the other hand, I think that the idea of putting sweetcorn on anything and everything is kind of gross, and I often had to beg them not to do that to my food. This was my mainstay meal for a good part of my stay while working in London.
Back in New York, in my last full-time job, the cafeteria decided to put a chili bar into their wintertime monthly rotation. This was really well received as a change from the usual selections. My interest in this development came only when I discovered that this also meant that they would serve baked potatoes as a holder for the chili, in addition to having bread bowls for it. One day, the topic of jacket potatoes came up randomly in a “What are you doing about lunch today?” conversation with an English colleague of mine. When I mentioned that chili week also meant the appearance of the aforementioned spud in our midst, her voice filled with excitement. Finally, civilized cuisine had come to American shores.
I would make it a policy to get at least one of those chili-potato combinations during the weeks when they had them. It wasn’t quite the same as what I’d had in the UK, but it was a nice change from the usual salads and sandwiches. Today, I satisfied a craving for them by making a jacket potato filled with tuna, covered with cheddar, and a green salad for lunch, much like the ones that I used to eat from the canteen. The lack of a working microwave meant that I got to heat up my apartment with the toasty smell of baking potato skin. It made the process longer, but, in the end, the skin was super crispy, making it the perfect jacket for holding all of the gooey, buttery filling.
1 Russet potato
1 scoop prepared Tuna Salad
Cheddar Cheese, several slices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the outside of the potato and poke several holes in it, piercing the skin and entering the top layer of flesh. Place in the oven on a plate or in foil.
After 30 minutes, remove the potato from the oven. Poke a fork in it to see if it is done. It probably needs some more cooking. Make some more holes in the potato, this time pushing the fork in gently as far as you can go. Put the potato back in the oven for about another 20-30 minutes. When a fork poked into a potato goes through the flesh with very little resistance, the potato is cooked.
Cut open the potato in two halves length-wise. Put the potato on a plate or a baking dish. Scoop away some of the flesh from the skin, taking care not to break the skin, and leave the flesh in the potato halves. Cover the potato with tuna salad and then top with slices of cheese. Put this all back in the oven for about another 10 minutes.
When the cheese has melted, remove the potato from the oven. Serve immediately. It will be very hot, so take care when eating that first bite.