Baked Potato with Smoky Eggplant-Lentil Puree and Indian Spiced Butter

I am indebted to the superb Joy of Cooking, but one of its recipes made me sit back in horror: potatoes baked after being covered in “rosin” (“rock rosin” from “any dance supply store”) touted as being “far superior” to any other baked potato because cooking the potatoes in the rosin produces a much “flakier” result. Such claims have to be taken seriously by any lover of baked potatoes, but do they really mean “rosin” as we know it?

They do say not to eat the skins—I should hope not. They say to perform this only out of doors, and that a potato cooked this way “will send the spirits soaring.” I take exception to this statement because if I can’t eat the skins, my spirit will stay lead-weighted to the ground.

I prefer to use rock salt since you can still cook inside in the kitchen and because the salt draws out moisture, flaking the potato.

For baked potatoes use only mature potatoes grown for that purpose, like large Idahos.

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Ingredients

Method

Mix the ½ cup butter and the spice mix together and let sit 1 hour to meld the flavors.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and dry the potatoes, then brush them with melted butter. Fill a shallow ovenproof dish with 1 inch of rock salt, and place the potatoes on top. Put the dish of potatoes in the oven. After 20 minutes prick each potato with a fork, and continue cooking, 40 to 60 minutes in all, depending on the size of the potatoes, until the fork meets no resistance when stuck into the center of a potato.

Heat the eggplant mix in a double boiler and keep warm.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, cut each potato open lengthwise, push each end to open, spoon some eggplant-lentil mix on top, and then put a spoonful of spiced butter on top of that. Sprinkle the basil on the butter. Pass both the remaining eggplant-lentil mix and the spiced butter, and also the flavored salt to sprinkle on top of the potato.

Variations

Use almost any of the sauces in the Sauces chapter. Or the vegetable ragout. I would not refuse guacamole, a pile of deep-fried fresh little anchovies topped with Montpelier butter, pesto by itself, blue cheese mixed with whipped cream, or gobs of black or white truffle butter.

Try also a ragout of braised pigs’ feet with morels, or just morels themselves, or lobster (or crab or prawn) rémoulade, warm shrimp sauce, smoked salmon scraps ground with butter in a mortar with lots of black pepper, a sweetbread stew, or leftover ham chopped up and mixed with cream and Dijon mustard. And so it goes. (My choices would be creamed salt cod or cooked white beans with white truffles.)

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