“What’s my angle on this post?”
I don’t want to pull back the curtain on this whole DALS thing too far, but that’s a question you hear a little too often around our house, at about 10:00 at night, when the kids are in bed and one of us is sitting at the kitchen table, trying to write 400 words about baked potatoes or 7,000,000 words on, gulp, a freakin’ chicken salad sandwich. (Not that we’re complaining.) What’s my angle? What’s my point? What, exactly, am I saying about this plate of food or that pile of children’s books? This is what I asked Jenny last Sunday night when she informed me I would be posting, in the coming week, about the meal we’d just eaten.
“Sunday dinner,” she said. “That’s your angle. You don’t need anything more than that.”
And, as usual, she was right. Sunday dinner conjures certain feelings and carries certain expectations and I suppose we’d met most of them that night. It was cold that day — or, at least, what passes for cold now — and we’d bunkered down most of the afternoon, reading Anne Frank (school project) and playing Apples to Apples (dying, truly dying) and getting antsy (very antsy), and I craved something basic and warm and tasty. You could say I was craving comfort food, but comfort food is a phrase that gives me the willies and I swore I would never use it, in earnest, on this blog. And yet: I needed something that went well with bourbon. I needed me some meatloaf! Not only that, I needed the meatloaf I grew up eating. (You will find this recipe in Jenny’s forthcoming book. Have you heard about her book? I’ve read it and it is GOOD.). Anyway, to go with that meatloaf, we needed potatoes, but I wasn’t totally feeling the roasted kind, so Phoebe and I went retro and made a cheesy gratin — I did the slicing, she did the arranging — and just so there was one indisputably healthy, green thing on the plate, we made our favorite raw kale salad. All of this, working in concert, made the house smell so good. At one point, Abby actually took a break from her doll playing, appeared at the top of the stairs, and shouted: “Dad! What smells so good?!” That’s what you want to hear on Sunday night. And that’s my angle. — Andy
Potatoes au Gratin
We used to make this all the time before we had kids. You can do it with red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes — we even used to mix in some sweet potatoes, too. Hard to go wrong. If you have a mandoline, you can use it to slice your potatoes nice and thin, about the thickness of a quarter. If not, a sharp knife will do just fine. If you want the full treatment, use cream instead of milk.
1 tbsp flour
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on your tolerance for heat
1 cup 2% milk
4 to 5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, skin on, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
Grease 9″ pie dish or casserole with olive oil or butter, and set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together flour, cayenne and milk, and set aside. Arrange sliced potatoes neatly on bottom of dish, then a few onions, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a handful of each cheese. Repeat three times: potatoes, onions, cheese, reserving a little cheese for final layer. Pour milk mixture evenly over the potatoes. Top with shredded cheese and salt and pepper, and cover with foil. Bake at 425° for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and broil for 5 minutes, or until cheese gets slightly brown and bubbly.