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New toys under the tree for me

potato stacks


Christmas makes everyone a kid, and what kid doesn’t like new toys?  In my memory of childhood Christmas presents, one of my favorites was an Easy-Bake Oven.  With just the power of a light bulb and a specially formulated mix, I could make a cake all by myself.  I remember mixing the ingredients, popping the cake in the oven, and then waiting for a good long while.  Turns out a cake bakes pretty slowly under a 60-watt light, but it was worth the wait.  Decades later, I still love new cooking and baking toys, and this year is no different.

I’ve been experimenting with several plant-based recipes of late, so a precision cutting tool was in order.  I have a spotty track record with kitchen safety, so as an early-season present, I gifted myself a mandoline slicer that’s not only very sharp, but also user friendly.  I spent several weeks making matchstick carrots for stir fry, fine-chopped celery for chicken soup, and even perfect slices of cheddar for a charcuterie board.  I made paper-thin cucumber slices that were bathed in a savory sesame dressing, and moved on to ratatouille that was so uniformly beautiful, it would have made Walt Disney cry.  To sum it up, my new toy is now one of my favorites.

The potato stacks I’ve showcased here make excellent use of this tool, though if you have good knife skills, it’s not strictly necessary.  These potatoes are a single-serving version of a classic pan of potato casserole.  Made in individual muffin cups, thin slices of potato are layered with butter, herbs, and cheese.  The stacks slump beautifully as they cook, becoming crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  The slicing is complete in a flash, the flavors are familiar and comforting, and a quick spray of vegetable oil in the pan makes for easy clean up.  If oven space is an issue, bake these early in the day, refrigerate and then rewarm in time for dinner while the turkey or ham rests.

I like the fact that these potatoes are rich without being overpowering, but if you want to lighten them up, omit the Parmesan and cheddar.  If you’re looking for something more decadent, add a bit of Gruyere cheese for added oomph.  No matter what you do, these are a guaranteed crowd pleaser and the perfect side dish for just about any holiday offering you can think of.  I like to stack the potatoes just above the rim of each muffin cup for stacks that come out a bit on the smaller side, then guests who want a larger serving can simply take two.  If you’re looking for taller stacks, the potatoes are starchy enough to hold together as they bake, as long as you use a light touch while sliding them into the oven.

These potatoes are destined to become a new holiday favorite, a dish that requires little effort and give the cook some time to assemble the other components of a holiday feast.  The next time these are on the menu, I’m thinking I’ll pop them in the oven and then whip up some sort of a Christmas cake in honor of those delicious Easy-Bake desserts of my childhood.



Holiday potato stacks

  • 4 large russet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, rosemary, or a combination of the two
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons shredded cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice potatoes to 1/16 of an inch thick.  In a large bowl, coat potatoes with the butter, olive oil, herbs, Parmesan salt and pepper, stirring gently to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Carefully layer the potatoes in the muffin cups.  The potatoes will shrink as they bake, so stack them just above the rim of each cup (or higher if desired, but doing so may result in fewer servings).  Top each stack with cheddar cheese.  Bake for about 50 minutes until golden brown.  Let potatoes stand for about five minutes before serving.  To make ahead: cook as directed, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.  To rewarm, place them in a baking dish and heat in the oven at 350 just until warmed through.


Article and photo by Lisa Crockett




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