Consider the potato. So cheap. Delicious. Can keep or quite a time.
Not to mention, that it is, along with fortified milk, a complete diet. It is easily made into many meals, so when you have the time, make extra - it doesn't take any extra time, except for scrubbing, and they make a quick, tasty, and above all cheap meal.
For baking, you generally want the brown skinned russet potato. A light, flaky inside matched with a crispy skin is the ideal.
So you have a bag of 30 cent/lb. potatoes. (Don't forget, to help keep your potatoes fresh, store a ripe apple with them. The apple gives off ethylenes and other organic alcohols as it respires, which suppresses sprouting).
Take the number you wish to use in the next couple days. Scrub them. Examine the skin - are there any green spots? Not good. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family, and produce solanine in the green bits (leaves and green flesh), and sprouts. It won't likely kill you, just give you gastric distress, but these toxins aren't destroyed by cooking, so trim any spots, and prick deeply with a fork (at least 3 times) per potato. If not, they will explode (been there, done that, have the t-shirt).
At this point most recipes will advise you to coat the skin with olive oil. Don't. Oil moisturizes. Instead, rub the exterior with a light coating of salt. Easiest way it to sprinkle your hands with salt before handling each potato, or just sprinkle them lightly.
Place directly on the rack in a preheated oven between 350-400 degrees (the flexible temp is to allow to cook other things at the same time). Time totally depends on the size of the spud. Smaller spuds, higher temp, check at 35 minutes. Larger spuds, lower temp, start to check at an hour. The largest potatoes will take about an hour an a half. So there's your window. You know they are done when a fork (not knife - too sharp) pierces them lightly.
Just enough time to do a bit of homework.
Pull the potatoes when done. Put any ones not for immediate use in the fridge to cool.
So how to make a meal from your bakes potato?
Take your hot potato, split from stem to stern and smother with butter, mayo, chives, salsa, chili, leftover veggies, bacon - whatever floats your boat. And enjoy a glass of milk.
Take your hot potato and cut it in half lengthwise so you have two little boats. Scoop the insides out, put them into a bowl, and mash the insides with butter, stock, cream, cream cheese - whatever is handy, and refill with the mashed potato plus whatever you think is yummy - bacon, miso, cheese, leftovers etc. You can even whip up an egg white and fold it in for a souffle texture. Grill until hot.
Leftover Baked Potatoes
While both of the above are best when hot, you can also prepare your spuds ahead of time and reheat them for stuffing. But for a change of pace, you can do some of the following:
Hash browns are an obvious choice. Grate or chop those potatoes, then grate or chop an onion in with it. Or don't - it's fine without it. Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is nice and hot, put the mixture in and season with salt and pepper. Let it get a nice brown crust, then turn over to crust the other side.
Potato salad - while a hot baked potato is fluffy, a cold one is denser. While boiled potatoes are a better choice, leftover baked will do in a pinch.
Baked potato soup - Link Coming
Baked potato bread - this is an easy quick bread (quick means leavened by baking soda as opposed to yeast), so it takes little time to prepare. - Link Coming