The real story behind those potato skins at Prime Rib

It's time to fess up. In a column last fall I mentioned starting a meal at the Prime Rib restaurant with an appetizer called Greenberg potato skins, a dish many fans feel is one of Baltimore's best ways to begin a meal.

At that time, I credited the dish to the late Teddy Greenberg, a Baltimore wholesale children's clothing manufacturer and a regular at the restaurant who requested that it be put on the menu. The Prime Rib chef complied and made his own changes to the concept of spud skins served with sour cream.


Then I heard from Shirlee S. Rice, a 90-year-old Slade Avenue resident. She has her own take on the Greenberg skins and how they made it onto the table.

"Teddy Greenberg was a man-about-town who ate out every night and was a frequent guest at our home," Rice told me this week. "He liked the potato skins I served after being inspired by an offhand comment from James Beard."


Now this is interesting.

Rice recalled that about 35 years ago, she had been attending cooking seminars sponsored by the Walters Art Museum. She recalled taking notes and listening to the sessions given by Beard, Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, among others.

One of Beard's dishes was a complicated confection called Potatoes Lord Byron that involved parmesan cheese, cream and the scooped-out insides of baked potatoes.

"In an offhand remark, Beard said you could also use the skins, too -- cut them with a scissors, add salt, pepper and dot them with butter and bake in a hot oven until crisp," Rice said, referring to notes she took in 1971. She also remembered that her mother told her that potato skins are a good source of nutrition.

Shortly after the lesson, Rice made the skins and served them as an appetizer with sour cream. They caught on. One night, Teddy Greenberg enjoyed them. He later asked that the dish be duplicated at the Prime Rib, where they have achieved a life of their own.

"I still love cooking because it's creative and artistic," Rice told me before we launched into a long remembrance of the specific foods we loved from Baltimore's culinary annals.

High on her list are the old Marconi's and a Howard Street restaurant called Maxim's, which stumped me. She also dined weekly at Miller Brothers (her father was a partner in the Siegel Rothschild and Gans Brothers umbrella-making firm and his office was not far away). She was a regular at the Chesapeake and Hasslinger's.

We got down to business when we discussed our favorite caterer and confectioner. That was always Fiske's on Park Avenue, near North. We talked about the delicacies from this place and became rhapsodic about its ice cream, particularly the harlequin ice cream blocks composed of orange water ice, pistachio, vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Her son liked the small chocolate-covered cakes. I liked just about anything that arrived home in a box with the Fiske name on it.


As for the Greenberg name on the potato skins claimed by Shirlee Siegel Rice, I'm just glad they've endured so well and did not vanish in the 1970s.