When I was a girl and my mama was blue, she’d lead me into the kitchen by the hand.
The sadder she was, the fancier the meal. When she pulled out the tapered candles from the blue box, I knew it was a doozy. When she ironed the tablecloth and folded the napkins in three different ways, I knew it was best to do as she said and nothing more. When she sat me down with the silver and handed me a cloth, I said a little prayer and hoped someone was listening.
Somehow, the meal set her right again. The fancier the meal, the more tears to work through, that’s what her hands said. And by the time we were done, my mother would rest her palms against the counter for just a second. She’d arch her back and shut her eyes and let out a breath. “Sally Sue,” she’d say. She wouldn’t be looking at me. She’d be staring at the fancy tile over the counter, tracing them with her eyes. “Let’s eat.”
The scalloped potatoes were my favorite.
It feels strange to say I had a favorite at all, since I ate every one of those meals in a state of my very own; my worry and fear and pleasure and sadness tangled up inside me until I was a miniature version of her. The longer she cooked, the better she felt and the worse I worried. But yes, I had a favorite. In all of that. Maybe because of all of that, who knows. Those potatoes. They were perfect.
Everything I have to tell you, you already know.
I just got over a head-splitting cold. (Everyone has a cold.) I’m on a diet. (Everyone is on a diet.) I don’t want to leave my house. (It’s January. There’s a gazillion feet of snow falling in Utah and other places. No one wants to leave their house.) I put on my pajamas at 6:15pm tonight. (Okay, that’s all you. And that’s really sad.)
I never told you my resolution. I don’t think, in fact, that I’ve actually said it out loud. So here it is and everything in this post will back it up.
This year, I want to bump up the resolution of my own life. I want it to be more vibrant. I want it to sing more.
This has less to do with wanting happier things to happen to me (which I cannot control, to a degree). I just want to notice more. I want to slow down and be able to look around me and know what it means. I want to do small things better. And I want to notice when they start to add up.
FIRST, MAKE CLARIFIED BUTTER
1/2 pound of unsalted butter
1. Slowly melt the butter in a heavy small saucepan over medium low heat. Do not stir.
2. Remove from the heat, and carefully spoon off all of the foam from the top.
3. Pour the clear liquid butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, leaving behind the solids in the pan.
4. Once cool, the clarified butter can be refrigerated for weeks.
4 Idaho (or baking) potatoes
4 Tablespoons of chilled clarified butter (see above)
Coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt)
1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat, use a nonstick baking sheet or a medium-sized baking dish.
2. Cut off the two ends of one potato and reserve them. Trim the 4 sides of the potato to form an even brick. Slice of potato about 1/8 inch thick on a mandoline, keeping the slices in order if you can (just like a line of shingled dominoes).
3. Hold the stack of potato slices in the palm of one hand and use the other to shape them back into a brick, as you would a deck of cards. Lay the stack on its side on the baking sheet and put the reserved potato ends, cut side down at either end keep the stack aligned. Then, with the palm of your hand, angle slices slightly to resemble a line of dominoes that has tilted over. Adjust the end pieces to keep the stack and shape, and align the slices if necessary.
4. Dot the top and sides with pieces of the clarified butter. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
5. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, keeping the stacks at least 2 inches apart.
6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned on the edges and tender in the middle when tested with a skewer. Serve immediately.