Filed under: asides, dinner, recipe | Tags: adventure, France, home, local, orléans, Phoenix, potatoes, recipe, season, Travel
I lived in a city where the flowers magically changed every two weeks. There were palm trees and willow trees, pansies and roses. For months, I marveled at the power of the seasons, then I discovered the midnight workers who brought the plants in and out by the truck load. Brightly colored flowers in fall, low-lying ground cover in winter, whispy trees in spring. Even after the magic was gone, the city surprised me.
There was a green equestrian monument in the town square, a cathedral with mass only in the summer, weekly strikes.
It was in this city that I learned about cold, about determination, about friendship and about love. I learned how to stand on my own two feet, how to fight for myself, how to be poor but happy.
It was by the river that I discovered that no matter how far from home you go, it stays with you. When you leave, it never leaves you.
I only lived in Orléans, France for eight months. It seemed like a lifetime and a dream all at once. Every day was a challenge, nothing was easy. Days were weeks, weeks were months, months were years. I fought losing battles, celebrated victories, and kissed windows in moments of joy.
And I grew up.
Two years ago today I set foot in a classroom as a teacher for the first time. I was unprepared. My lesson consisted of answering questions and talking too fast. I wrote in my blog that I wasn’t nervous. I lied.
Two years ago today I came home hungry and cold. Even though I lived next to a supermarché, I had been eating sandwiches, backpacking food, spaghetti with butter – anything cheap. I was happy beyond belief but I was also terrified.
I called home.
I cooked myself a real dinner for the first time in two weeks. I ate the whole pan of bubbling potatoes. And finally, I felt strong. This experience – all the ups and downs – wasn’t just happening to me, I was living it.
And I was happy.
1 batch roux (2 tbsp butter and flour, add milk slowly until the sauce is thick yet smooth)
3 big handfuls emmental cheese, or any mild white cheese
2 slices ham, diced
1 small onion, diced
Preheat the oven to 375. Begin my making the roux. Melt the butter, once bubbling add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add in the milk, one splash at a time – whisking continuously. The sauce will thicken into a paste. Keeping slowly adding the milk until it begins to resemble a thick cream sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Microwave the peeled potatoes for 5 minutes on high. While the potatoes cook, dice the onion and ham.
Once the potatoes are cool to touch, slice them thinly. It’s important to keep the slices even in thickness.
In a casserole dish, spread a little sauce in the bottom, then layer the potato slices in the pan – don’t overlap them. Add enough cheese to loosely cover the potatoes, then sprinkle on a third of the ham and onions. Keep building layers with roux, cheese, ham and onions until you run out of potatoes. For the top layer, pour on the remaining roux and sprinkle generously with cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until a knife can be inserted with little resistance.