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Jun 1, 2011 06:00 AM

Food Origins: Baked Potato Skins?

Does anyone know who first got the idea to scoop out the potato, and serve just the skins, baked. Toppings may have come later.

I'm thinking it wasn't TGIF.

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  1. Steve, from what I heard, and this goes back 25 years at least, it wasn't that someone got the idea to scoop out the innards, it was that someone saw a huge pile of skins after the innards had been scooped out to make mashed potatoes and got the bright idea to throw them into the oven.

    Oh for the days when potato skins were delicious, crunchy bar food, not bloated gut bombs.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob W

      I first had skins at a restaurant in Dallas in the late 1970s.

      As a kid, the skin was the best part of the baked potato. I'd eat the innards first, and finish off the skin with lots of butter.

      1. re: Bob W

        Bob W--Yes, I think you are correct. I recently read this in an article--can't remember where it was or I'd post a link. Chefs wanted to use up the potato "scraps"--both raw and baked--so they started sticking raw potato peels in the oven or fryers. Tossing the skin of the glorious potato is about as wasteful as tossing crispy chicken skin! All that flavor and crunchy goodness deserves a spot in our stomachs.

      2. Sounds like some food service guy had a hand in it. In my college days (decades ago) I was on the advisory committee for our campus food services. One of our vendors took the trimmings from the pizza crust stamping process, cut them into bite-size irregular shapes and sold them to us (and other campuses) by the boatload for pennies a pound. We dropped them into the Fryolator and sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon and had a nearly-pure-profit fried dough snack. In the world of nothing going to waste somebody saw the lowly potato skin as an opportunity.

        1. I know who first got the idea to scoop out the potato, and serve just the skins. It was this woman in the highlands of Peru around 1500 years ago, but I forgot her name. Anyhow, she had roasted some potatoes in some coals and when they were done gave them to her kids to eat. One of her kids, I forgot his name too, scooped out the insides and left the skins on his plate. When his mother saw this she said, in a long lost indigenous language, Eat those skins, damn it, or you're not getting any dessert!

          1. Growing up in the late 50's and the 60's that is the way we always ate baked potatoes at home...scooping out the potato and eating the skins separately with lots of butter. Mom always put the potatoes in the oven without foil or anything so the skins were always nice and crispy. Sometimes we would get lucky and get one Mom cut a bit of the end off, and the end would be like a potato chip. MMMM!!

            Since it was Mom & Dad who taught us, I would say it went back at least as far as the 1920's, if not before that. I bet it came over on the boat from the Old Country with my grandparents/greatgrand parents. It wasn't until I got out into the "real world" did I realize that wasn't what everybody else did.

            1 Reply
            1. re: al b. darned

              Thanks for your story. Though, I am still thinking this is not the same as going to a restaurant and ordering only the skins, which are baked and served without the potato.

            2. My parents were fanatics for the skins; we referred to them as "the scabs". How delighted I was to read in a Smithsonian Magazine article about potatoes, maybe forty years later, one potato expert's remark that "if there's any part of a potato you shouldn't eat, it's the skin." This is because, just as the greens are poisonous, a raw potato skin exposed to light can start to turn green and develop that same toxin.

              We first encountered the skins-as-appetizers at a private party in a new and ambitious Nashville fern bar ca. 1982. Our little group immediately embarked on a game of imagining what sort of Food Residue (our name for the category) would be the next trendy item - lobster shells? eggshells? corn husks? Right on cue, a platter of well-dressed "scabs" emerged from the kitchen, and we all started laughing. Not at all the reaction the waiter expected …