There are very few dishes that can run the gamut from homely to extravagant and be just as appealing at either end of the scale. The baked potato might be the only one, in fact, and I have never met a baked potato I didn’t like. Slightly anaemic looking and drowning in baked beans that are threatening to escape from a flimsy polystyrene box? I’m in. Salt crusted, wrapped in foil and cradled in gloved hands on Bonfire Night? Sign me up and leave the pat of butter within reach. Piled high with blushing smoked fish, sour cream and caviar? Please leave me and my overdressed potato alone while I imagine I’m eating her in a New York restaurant with Hubbell from The Way We Were.
I seem to remember Nigel Slater filling baked potato shells with pork rillettes and Parmesan once. I’ve never tried it but I’d agree with him that a tattie in its jacket is really just a vehicle for all the best things in life. The best things being, just so we’re clear: 1. porky bits, 2. cheese, 3. more cheese.
It might be terribly retro but the most delicious things often are, and a twice baked potato is an undeniably good thing. Sturdy yet somehow elegant, utterly familiar but never boring. This incarnation sees the flesh mashed with cream cheese and black pepper, topped with soft blue and popped under the grill until it bubbles. Then there are garlic mushrooms tossed in more melted blue, and sweet and sour balsamic onions. All you need is a green salad and plenty of mustard.