Not to be cliche, but I am not quite sure where the time has gone since Christmas when I intended to post a number of scrumptious new recipes. I guess snow storms, work, new love (!), and just life intervened.
As most of your know by now, my husband unthinkably passed away July 30, 2015, and my dog and mother–all adored–within the next two months. I have been figuring out a lot of things–including the holidays–since then. And, I’m grateful for the new insights and perspectives gained.
To celebrate Christmas 2015, I suggested that I meet my father and sister–who live together in MS–in New Orleans, a richly idiosyncratic city passionately loved by my family. And we did. I was as blissfully content as I could have bee, wandering the streets of the historic French Quarter. But my father and sister, both more sedentary than me–as an octogenarian, he has a good excuse–were restless and a hint malcontent, only leaving the room in our favorite hotel with its exposed brick walls, lovely courtyard, and newly renovated interior for meals (some disappointing) and a modicum of site seeing. We visited the Roosevelt hotel with its magical Winter Wonderland of a lobby. And the Monteleone Hotel–where my parents honeymooned and where we hosted their 50th wedding anniversary–with it’s slowly rotating bar.
So,while it wasn’t entirely a bust, I didn’t feel we should attempt a repeat. Plus, in September, Bob and I feel in love and wanted to spend the holidays together. He went with me to a wonderfully warm Thanksgiving in MS and LA (at close friends’ gracious home in Covington, just outside of New Orleans), so I felt we should spend Christmas in VA where much of his family lives. I invited Papa and Gin, they readily accepted, and then they both took ill, my father, too ill to travel. So my sister, of course, chose to stay with him, as I encouraged her to do. It was nothing too serious; just a combination of maladies that, together, didn’t lent themselves to plane travel.
Before we realized they wouldn’t be making the trip, I had quickly set about planning our celebration, having not spent Christmas in my own home for the entire 26 years I have lived here. Joe and I had always hosted Thanksgiving but then, without children, went to spend Christmas with each of our families, he in PA, me in MS. With no frame of reference, I was so surprised at how many of our friends were available over the Christmas weekend and, pretty soon, a restaurant brunch was planned with friends for Christmas Eve Day and invitations were sent for a Christmas Cheer Open House on Christmas afternoon followed by Christmas Dinner with Bob’s and my families at my house on Christmas Night.
Shortly thereafter, I was suddenly faced with wrapping my arms around the fact that my family wouldn’t be here–the first time in my entire life I had not been with them on Christmas–so I threw myself into merry making of a different sort, keeping all of our plans in place, just with a bit of a void created by the absence of Papa and Gin. I had done my usual minimal, but sparkly and special, decorating with the help of my beloved friend and house guest, Donna Reiss, for my annual Christmas, Channukah, Curry & Cakes Party in mid-december. That left concentrating on friends and food for Christmas weekend.
Here I share a favorite dish from Christmas Dinne 2017. These potatoes are as delicious warmed and served the next day as when fresh and crispy out of the oven. But don’t expect many leftovers. And don’t wait for a holiday. These spuds are striking, but easy enough for a weeknight provided you use a mandolin for slicing.
Crispy Vegan Fan Potatoes
2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed, and sliced about 1/4-inch thick (I used a mandolin for this purpose and microwave the small ends for gnoshing or potato salad)
1/4 cup (or more!) melted vegan butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 taspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspooon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9 x 13″ pan or therabouts. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the melted butter, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, and add the potatoes, a handful at a time, tossing as you go to coat them completely. “Shingle” or “fan” the potatoes in rows in the prepared pan, overlapping them fairly closely. No one will tell if you drizzle just a hint more butter over the top. Cover the pan tightly with foil or an oven-safe lid and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the foil–potatoes should be cooked through (the tip of a paring knife should easily pierce the potatoes)–and roast, uncovered, for another 25 minutes or more, until potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges. Even, or maybe especially, a little overly brown is scrumptious. Sprinkle the top with a bit of smoked paprika and let the potatoes cool for about 5 minutes before serving with a spatula. Use the knife-edge of the spatula to cut into sections, and then lift each section out with the flat surface.