Best part of a spud: Crispy potato skins. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What are they?
The nutrient-rich skins of whole baked potatoes, hollowed out and roasted or fried until crisp. No longer the cheap, post-beer snack of choice in fast-food joints, they're turning up in hipster bars, in cafes as all-day breakfasts with eggs, and in upscale restaurants as appetisers or garnish.
Where are they?
At the Commons in Darlinghurst, potato skins are a snack with drinks, oven-roasted and served with a red-pepper dipping sauce.
Mad Spuds Cafe in Surry Hills goes one better with a whole section on the menu devoted to ''twice-cooked spud skins''. "It's quite common in England to have a baked-potato meal," says new owner Danny McCarthy. He uses sebago potatoes for the chips, topped with goat's cheese and beetroot relish, or poached eggs, gruyere, black pudding, apple relish and toasted quinoa.
But Sydney's most upscale potato skins are at a communal-table diner in King's Cross called Farmhouse. The gnarled, crunchy skins are served with a fluffy garlicky aioli, while the leftover cooked potato is baked into dense, soft potato bread. "We roast desiree potatoes in salt at 200C for an hour, then cool, cut in half and scoop out the flesh before flash-frying," explains chef Mike Mu Sung.
At the Brunswick Street Cider House in Fitzroy, the crisp-fried potato skins are a byproduct of the their equally popular duck-fat potatoes. Whole potatoes are par-baked, the insides scooped out and cooked in duck fat and the skins deep-fried until crisp. They're served with a choice of seasoning and sauce.
The ''loaded potato skins'' at Glenhuntly Road's Elwood Lounge are served as a meal in their own right, topped with bacon, cheese, sour cream and spring onions and served with a side salad.
Chef Nicolas Poelaert of Brooks of Melbourne goes beyond the cliche by baking whole desiree potatoes, cracking and emptying them, then deep-frying the skin and drying it in a dehydrator. He then uses the skins to create a broth emulsion, which he serves with tiny steamed nicola potatoes coated in glossy green nettle puree, with baby chard leaves and a brown butter sauce.
Why do I care?
Because the skin is the best part of a spud, especially when it's crisp. And because it's a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese and dietary fibre.
Can I do this at home?
Hell, yeah. Desiree potatoes work well, but avoid any potatoes with a green tinge. Use the cooked potato flesh for mash, chowder or gnocchi.
Farmhouse, 4/40 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, 0448 413 791
Mad Spuds Cafe, 479 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 9698 8108
The Commons, 32 Burton Street, Darlinghurst, 9358 1487
Elwood Lounge, 49 Glenhuntly Road, Elwood, 9525 6788
Brooks of Melbourne, 115 Collins Street, city, 9001 8755
Brunswick Street Cider House, 386 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9415 6142
Roasted potato skins
Serve with a garlicky fresh cheese dip, or top with anything from bacon and blue cheese to salmon caviar.
5 medium-large potatoes, scrubbed
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
100g soft goat's cheese or feta, crumbled
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped chives
1. Heat the oven to 200C.
2. Coat the potatoes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and prick all over with a fork. Bake on the oven rack for 1 hour until tender inside and crisp outside.
3. When cool enough to handle, cut each potato lengthwise into quarters and scoop out the flesh, leaving a 5-millimetre layer of flesh next to the skin. Brush lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil and scatter with sea salt and pepper.
4. Bake on the oven rack at 200C for 25 to 30 minutes or until crisped and brown.
5. Whisk or whiz the goat's cheese, yoghurt, garlic, vinegar and chives with sea salt, pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and serve alongside.