The Professor and I managed to survive something called a ‘Polar Vortex’ – meaning temperatures for more than 48 hours were well below zero and windchill was a record-breaking -41 degrees. The good news is that as of today we’re in a heat wave at a 40 degrees above zero – break out the flip flops people!
Campus was scheduled to re-open a week ago Monday but with snow coming down in big, fat, wet, heavy flakes, the powers that be closed the entire state of Indiana and, from the warmth of our living room windows, we watched Mother Nature add more white to the already 4-inches on the ground. Because we knew the arctic air was following the snow, The Professor and I took a couple of hours that day to play outside; we tromped (me, more Weeble-like) around the yard bundled like Michelin Men, wrapped in gloves, scarves, hat, long underwear and boots. We grabbed an umbrella to protect our gear and snapped some shots to record the moment – we even built a snowman! Packing, rolling and smoothing round white orbs, stacking them one on top of the other; we dressed our guy old-school: one of my old scarves and a winter hat, two smooth, jet-black river rocks for eyes and an old carrot from the bottom of the vegetable bin for a nose. A few twigs peeked from under the now increasing white stuff and those were snapped off to serve as arms. It’s been years since I’d made a snowman but it felt good to be outside with my favorite man in the world and just play.
I’d made a goal this year to start the process of downsizing the contents of our house; we’re not planning a move in the near future but the realization that as the nieces and nephews in our lives are now young adults also means that we too are, gasp, dare I say it . . . aging. OOF! In some ways I’m happy to have made it this far and yet age has a way of hitting you squarely in the face like bracingly cold, wet snow – shocking and exhilarating all at once – happy to be alive while also acknowledging the unsettling fact that I’ve now lived more life than I care to admit.
And so the Polar Vortex allowed me a few extra days to begin the purging process of one room at a time starting in my upstairs office; file drawers, shelves, boxes of unused supplies and paper clips, rubber bands and the like have been sorted and either tossed out completely or placed in boxes to take to Goodwill. Every single surface has now been dusted and wiped clean, cat fur swept away and my space is all shiny and new again. Having spaces clean and organized helps me to be more creative and allows me to breathe – The Professor on the other hand, can shut out all of the chaos around him and get in ‘the zone’ completely oblivious to mounds of paper, blaring music or clumps of cat hair flitting about in the air – which is exactly why we each have our own work space.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I have a love affair when it comes to potatoes – and these potatoes, sliced thin, layered into a casserole dish with grated Gruyere cheese, cream and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg is about as good as it gets.
They’re definitely not you’re ‘every week’ potato dish but when it’s time to celebrate – or be snowed in – make these.
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 bay leaf (you’ll remove before baking)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyere for top
- 1 sprig fresh thyme for top
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, pulled from stem and rough chop for top
- unsalted butter to coat baking dish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
- In a saucepan, heat up the cream and milk with the bay leaf, garlic and nutmeg; bring to a simmer, reduce to low and keep warm
- While the cream/milk mixture is warming, butter a 2-quart casserole dish
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place casserole dish on top – this will catch any overflow and make for easy clean up
- Arrange potato slices in a single layer in casserole dish, overlapping slightly; season with a bit of salt and pepper
- Remove bay leaf and spoon some of the infused cream-milk mixture over the potato layer
- Repeat until you’ve filled the casserole dish
- If you’re shy of infused cream-milk mixture, you can add just a small amount of milk to barely cover the potatoes
- Top with grated Gruyere, fresh thyme leaves and chopped rosemary
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown
- Remove from oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving