Nobody is going to bother baking potatoes for Fourth of July celebrations.
Which is too bad, because a baked potato topped with a plethora of barbecue-friendly toppings — think grated cheeses, chili, barbecue pulled chicken or pork, maybe some avocado and crumbled tortillas — is perfect for outdoor eating. Especially since most of those items can be prepped well in advance.
Which got me thinking... While you might not crank up the oven to bake potatoes, chances are you'll have the grill going. Why not do grilled baked potatoes?
It ended up being a delicious approach to this have-it-your-way meal. The following recipe will walk your through the grilling process (it's pretty effortless). As for assembling your toppings, there are many ways to go. You could select a theme (say, Mexican) or go crazy and just offer tons of options.
Either way, your work serves two purposes. Many of the toppings you set out for the potatoes can do double duty on hot dogs and burgers. Let people choose their base (burger, dog or potato), then build up from there. It's also a great way to include a vegetarian option without resorting to veggie burgers.
GRILLED BAKED POTATOES
Start to finish: 50 minutes (10 minutes active)
6 large russet potatoes
Ground black pepper
Heat a grill to high.
Wash and pat dry each potato. Use a fork to gently pierce each potato several times. Tear 6 large sheets of foil, then use the fork to pierce each one several times. Place a potato on each piece of foil, then drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll the potatoes a bit to coat, then wrap in the foil.
Reduce one side of the grill to medium. If you are using a charcoal grill, bank most of the coals to one side. Arrange the potatoes on the cooler side. Cook for 40 minutes, or until tender and cooked through.
— Baked beans
— Refried beans
— Black beans
— Grated cheese (pepper jack, mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan, etc.)
— Sour cream (or plain Greek-style yogurt)
— Crumbled bacon
— Diced tomatoes
— Chopped ham
— Barbecue pulled pork or chicken
— Grilled sausages
— Corn kernels
— Grilled onions
— Grilled mushrooms
— Crumbled tortilla chips
— Potato chips
— Grilled asparagus
— Grilled steak strips
— Diced red onion
— Roasted red peppers
— Black and green olives
— Baby spinach
— Chopped peperoni
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.