Two Cheese, Two Potato Stack

Two Cheese, Two Potato Stack

Looking for a fun appetizer for your next holiday gathering? Try two cheese, two potato stacks on for a try.  They are a great make ahead side dish as well.  I took these to our annual Ashland holiday party and they were gobbled up in a flash.

  • potatoes/sweet potatoes (2 med to large sweet potato + 2 med to large russet potato)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary divided
  • ¼ cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Fresh rosemary or thyme, for garnish

I sliced the potatoes in the food processor using the finest slicing disk.  However you do it, make them as thin as possible. A mandoline would be perfect, but I am scared to death to use mine.  Rinse potatoes in water to release some of the starch.

Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray and then layer potato slices in 3-4 alternating layers.  It should come half way up the sides of the cup.  Sprinkle on some shredded cheese and rosemary.  Then layer an additional 3-4 slices of potato on top.  Melt in a saucepan the butter and add the cream, salt, pepper and garlic.  Spoon on the warm cream mixture over the top of the potato stacks.  Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and sprinkle on some more cheese.  Love that Gruyère!  It may take another 20-30 minutes in the oven to get brown and bubbly.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. You will need to run a sharp knife around the sides of the stacks to get them to come out of the pan intact.  For color and pizzaz, add some more fresh rosemary and serve.

Thankful for caring neighbors and for those that provide daily services in our community. Don’t forget to thank your postal carrier, the trash crew and your community police officer this holiday season.

I have a soft spot for those that bring us our mail. My grandfather Hovorka ran a post office in Topeka and my great grandfather Hauck was a proud letter carrier. He is pictured above.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

My brood and I are traveling to Amsterdam for the holidays.  Amsterdam is the same size as Fort Worth, Texas, about 800,000 citizens, and it lies on the same latitude as Saskatchewan province in Canada.  Brrr…   Amsterdam is famous for canals and cannabis cafes and is considered a most liberal place — free, open and permissive.  Just what we need after the last few months living in the land of “make America great again.”  The city is also architecturally unique and culturally important to us in the United States.  New York City was originally called New Amsterdam.

It is also the land of herring.  The Dutch cornered the herring market and this led to an unusual degree of cooperation around water management.  Building up dikes and dredging canals were massive communal activities.  Herring merchants demanded the local government to get involved.  Hence, the canal systems in Amsterdam are often compared to Venice. About 1500, as Michelangelo was working on his David statue, Amsterdam was a lively shipping port and one of the most Catholic cities in Europe.

Amsterdam’s tolerance attracts people with alternative lifestyles, even way back then in the 1500’s.  After many wars and much strife including some gruesome beheadings, Calvinist worship was permitted and then in turn the Catholic priests, monks and nuns were brutalized.  Between 1500 and 1700,  those were dark times in the city’s history with many conflicts, wars and changes in governance.

Rembrandt got his start by painting scenes from the Bible that were highly sought and fairly affordable to homeowners in Amsterdam at the time, particularly women.  Rembrandt even painted himself into the compositions. At the Rijksmuseum,  we can see not only the largest but also the most representative collection of works spanning his entire career.  I look forward to spotting him in these paintings when we visit.  We can also tour his historic home and workshop in the heart of Amsterdam. Dutch born painter, Vincent Van Gogh, has many of his masterpieces, including my personal favorites of sunflowers and Wheatfields with Crows, showcased at the Van Gogh Museum.  No doubt, I am attracted to these particular pieces due to my Kansas upbringing.

Shipping played a huge role in the economy of Amsterdam and made the city rich in the 1800’s. Shipping companies, like the Dutch East and West India Companies, sought resources by sea from places like Indonesia, West Africa as well colonies around the world including a party that landed in an area that would become New York. Multatuli wrote Max Havelaar in 1860 in protest against colonial policies told through the eyes of a coffee merchant. It was an instant success at the time and quite influential in Dutch literature and politics of the day.  I have it downloaded to my Kindle to read during our travels.

These explorations resulted in a large population in Holland who identify themselves as Indisch, Indo-European or for short, Indo.  After the Indonesian revolution, hundreds of thousands of these people, who held Dutch passports, were given the choice:  renounce Dutch citizenship and become Indonesian or leave the country.  Many left Indonesia and settled in the Netherlands.  Indisch now means yummy food while eating in Amsterdam including rijsttafel, the Indo version of an Indonesian multicourse feast.  I am seeking out such a feast as I don’t care for pickled herring.

The Nazi occupation essentially channeled Amsterdam people into distinct categories.  There were the hunted Jews, Gypsies and other undesirables.  There were collaborators, who out of either conviction or self-preservation aided the occupiers.  There was a small section of society, numbering probably in the tens of thousands who formed active resistance. Most people just tried to protect themselves , their families and their property.  Approximately 80,000 Jews were in Amsterdam at the start of the war, an estimated 58,000 were dead by the time it was over, most of them in concentration camps.

The story of Anne Frank and her family weaves in and out of this narrative and provides insight about a surreal world and time that must never be forgotten.  Especially as we listen to influential leaders censoring legitimate news outlets as “fake news” sources. We will visit Dam Square where the Canadian forces arrived after the German surrender as well as a visit to the Anne Frank House where she went into hiding and wrote her diary.

Currently, the social welfare system in Amsterdam reflects a real commitment to individual rights with a nod to the understanding that what is good for the whole must be part of the national priority. Amsterdam has found a way to blend economics with social liberalism.  And it helps that it is small and according to writer, Russel Shorto, a bit of a “pokey place”.  I look forward to a week of poking around and trying my best to be a bit more pokey myself with my dear family in the Venice of the North.

If you want to learn a lot more about the history of Amsterdam, please read Amsterdam:  A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russel Shorto.