COOK the BOOK FRIDAYS.
SCALLOPED POTATOES with BLEU CHEESE and ROASTED GARLIC
Tomorrow (Friday) I’m headed West. First stop, Anthem Country Club in Henderson, Nevada where I’ll drop my bags for six weeks. Michael and I lived in ACC the last 8 years of our marriage. What I positively know is I wouldn’t have survived those difficult years without the small cadre of strangers who became our friends and my lifesavers. This six weeks is an opportunity for my heart to hold tightly to those friendships and memories. And, it doesn’t get any better than Thanksgiving and Christmas with my kids in Bishop.
Preparing for my trip West is an energy-buster. I pack for a 5 1/2 month journey but also clear my condo, handing it off to The Gant for ski season rental. Everything personal moves to storage. #%@&% Of course I’d rather it be turnkey but this opportunity supports the turf, allowing me to remain in Aspen. (Warning: Now, here I get personal. You may want to skip to this week’s scrumptious recipe, Scalloped Potatoes with Bleu Cheese and Roasted Garlic)
These weeks of packing gave me time to reflect on my past 6 1/2 months in Aspen. The High Country has been my safe paradise since 1988. To my despair, this year I’ve clashed up against personal limitations and been forced to sample dependency. First Time Ever.
During my birthday celebration long ago, my daughter, Melissa, entertained guests with remarks about me. She mentioned two of the more exasperating qualities: 1) “Mom is ferociously independent.” 2) “Mom never gives up. Never.” To my mind, those two qualities are fantastic. To a daughter and friends, at times, not so much.
The saving grace of this discouraging six months have been my friendships, both local and virtual. Luckily my besties love me unconditionally and back at ‘em. In this Life, aren’t they the kind to treasure? It’s been a scary season of patch, patch, patch, requiring medical maintenance which translated into dependency and care. To everyone’s credit, friends stepped up, took over, never asking permission and only needed thank you’s.
Just thinking about what I can no longer do is cringe-worthy. Keeping 10 balls in the air anymore? Nope, multi-tasking is over. Gave up biking this summer, erring on the side of caution. I say “No, thank you” more than “Yes” and have 276 emails requiring responses. I don’t pop up at 5 AM anymore, missing birding opportunities. I’m adverse to risk, unwilling to go out on that proverbial limb. My world turns more slowly and, to me, that’s shocking, scary and disappointing.
Some time ago, I stopped to see a friend who had recently lost both her mother and husband. She was, understandably, distraught. “Mary,” she said, tearfully, “I’ve already lost my mother and husband, I don’t want to lose myself.”
This is the first time since Michael died I’m saying that same thing. This blog is about building a courageous Lifestyle following a loss. With a good mind, excellent health and the resources available to me, there have been few bumps until now. Realizing I can do nothing about the aging process and disheartened that I can’t easily adjust to that, I need to change course and figure this out. That, dear Readers,is my winter’s chore.
What I don’t need to figure out is this week’s stunning recipe from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen cookbook. Scalloped Potatoes with Bleu Cheese and Roasted Garlic may be the most delicious side dish I’ve ever featured. It’s decadent, substantial and plays well with roasted poultry or pork and beef main courses. Quick to make and economical to the wallet.
SCALLOPED POTATOES with BLUE CHEESE & ROASTED GARLIC by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
10 large cloves garlic
3 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the potatoes
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled bleu cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Trim the hard stem ends off the garlic cloves and put them, unpeeled, onto a piece of aluminum foil that’s large enough to envelop them. Drizzle in a small amount of olive oil, close it securely, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, until the cloves are lightly caramelized. (You can do this a few days ahead when you are using the oven for something else.) Leave the oven on and adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven.
3. Remove the garlic from the skins and mash the cloves in a saucepan with a few spoonfuls of the cream to make a paste. Put the saucepan over low heat and add the remaining cream. Heat until warmed through and then set aside.
4. Peel and slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Generously butter a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with sides at least 2 inches high. Put one-third of the potato slices in the baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one-third of the chives over the potatoes followed by one-third of the bleu cheese. Add another one-third of the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with one-third of the chives and bleu cheese. Add the final layer of potatoes, then pour the cream mixture over them and press down gently to flatten the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle on the remaining chives and bleu cheese.
5. Put the gratin dish on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, until it’s bubbling and well browned on top. The acidic cheese may cause the cream to separate a little bit, which is normal.
TIP: 1) I used my OXO mandoline, set at 1/4”, to slice the potatoes. Slicing them took less than 15 minutes. 2) I didn’t peel my potatoes, leaving the skin on each slice.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE.