Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stocking Envy and Decadent Holiday Potatoes

We had a wonderful Christmas around here and I hope yours was jolly and bright too. The Colorado weather even held out quite nicely for this Texas transplant with unseasonably warm temperatures. On Christmas day it managed to soar to the low 50s which around here feels more like a late summer’s day than the beginning of winter. We have also had a very dry winter at the lower elevations and record snow in the mountains; so all of you Coloradoans complaining about the lack of snow in the Denver area this winter head up hill there’s plenty of it waiting for you there.

Personally, I really haven’t missed a magnesium chloride glazed car or news about flight delays one little bit thank you very much. I’m so sorry for all those people in the Northeast dealing with the blizzard of 2010, but better you than me.

Even though I revelled in the warmish weather, I must admit getting into the Christmas spirit took a little bit more doing because of it; even decking our halls didn’t help much. I think that Christmas finally started to take root when I hit Walgreens for stocking stuffers.

When I was a kid, I don’t think my parents even did stockings that I can remember. All I know is that I don’t have one of those ancient artifacts from my childhood like my husband. His stocking has been used since his very first Christmas. I’m not saying that it is old or anything but I swear if you look very closely on the back you can barely make out the words “Designed by Betsy Ross”.

It is made of red felt and lovingly appliqued with hand cut white seasonal symbols. You know the ones, the singing angel, the double ringing bells, the slightly lopsided snowman, and Santa’s favorite reindeer, all accented with thoughtfully placed sequins that have now been dulled with the passage of time. The only problem with this quaint little stocking is that it was originally engineered to hold only a handful of treats, not the bonanza of odds and ends that Santa delivers today, so the excess is carefully annexed on the mantle above.

The once modest offering of a candy cane, a new toothbrush and an orange in the toe have now been replaced by our over the top generation with gift cards, Godiva chocolates, and new cell phones. No wonder my husband experiences stocking envy every year seeing his scrawny little stocking hanging next to our sparkling supersized ones brimming with gifts. His just simply can’t hold the amount of booty that ours can.

He does make a good point; even the dog’s stocking holds more goodies than his. If he wants to go out and buy himself a big glitzy new one more power to him, but personally every time I hang his well-loved antique my Christmas spirit soars, which brings me to the realization that maybe he’s not the only one with stocking envy around here.

Shortly after we empty our stockings, the great feast begins. Since we aren’t with our extended family and our numbers are small, we try to make our dinner something really special on Christmas Day. In years past we have had lobster bisque, tenderloins (beef and pork) and Cornish hens. This year I decided on an herb encrusted beef rib eye roast. I have done this before a couple of years ago and since I sorely misjudged the time it would take to cook, that year we didn’t eat Christmas lunch until 3 in the afternoon.

This year, I was armed with the knowledge that my roast was going to easily take 2 hours to achieve medium rare so I planned accordingly. In addition to the slow cooked roast, I also decided to make my almost famous three cheese au gratin potatoes. Made with a combination of bleu, Parmesan and cheddar cheeses with a generous sprinkling of bacon, it has a smooth flavor that is subtly sharp and slightly smoky. Served with beef or ham it is close to perfection. I also sautéed some tiny Brussels sprouts with bacon and onions in a light balsamic glaze that was a delicious accompaniment to the potatoes and beef.

Decadent Three Cheese and Bacon Au Gratin Potatoes

6 medium to large size russet potatoes (approximately 2 pounds, 1 kilo), thinly sliced
1 medium size sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 – 6 slices smoked bacon, chopped and fried until almost crispy
Salt and Pepper
Granulated garlic
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cup grated medium cheddar cheese
1 – 1/2 cups heavy cream (this is why they are called decadent)
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 2 quart (2 liter) baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the prepared dish (leave a few “holes” so the cream can seep between the layers), followed by 1/2 of the onions. Add salt and pepper and granulated garlic to taste before topping with 1/2 of the blue and Parmesan cheeses and 1/2 of the bacon. Top that with 1/3 of the cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients ending with the remaining 1/3 of the cheddar topping the last layer. Slowly pour the cream over the top allowing it to seep down to the bottom between the layers. Dot the top with butter, cover and cook for 1 – 1 -1/2 hours until the potatoes are fork tender. For those of you at higher altitudes like me it takes closer to 2 hours. Remove the foil covering and brown for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 – 10.


Anonymous said...

Your dinner sounds amazing and I LOVE your husband's vintage stocking---so adorable!

Yenta Mary said...

Save a plate of leftovers for me; we don't have any snow, so flight delays aren't a problem ... :) Happy new year, my friend! Can't wait to see what you're serving for it ....

Lea Ann said...

I have to admit that I do miss our big ol 2-3 feet snows, don't watch the news, so miss the adnaseum reports...but always hate the chemicals on the car. Love the stocking report, I think we did stockings, but don't have a family heirloom keepsake. I think we had store bought cheap felt. I made similar potatoes and am going to blog about it. LOVE that type of recipe. As always, great post Karen.

Karen Harris said...

Thanks so much everyone! Laurie, it is a pretty sweet stocking.

Mary, I don't know what I'm doing for NYE but I bought a whole dungeness crab today on special at Whole Foods so the possibilities are endless.

Lea Ann, I can't wait to see your version of Christmas potatoes. American homestyle cooking is my absolute favorite and cooks like you are what make it so good.

Tracy from Rah Cha Chow said...

Awww, your husband's stocking is so cute. Ours were the same kind you can buy at Walgreens today, so not something you'd pass down. Although I did get the nativity scene from my childhood, which I think is at least as special. By the way, your potatoes look wonderful!

Ansh| Spiceroots said...

I made this to take to a friend's Christmas dinner. I had to triple the recipe as there were going to be many many people at the gathering. It made quite and impact!! With each compliment I received I kept telling them it is my friend's recipe. Finally I gave up and quietly nodded a thank you to the 40 people.

You always make me look good Karen! Thank you for yet another wonderful recipe.