Lee MathisINSANELEE DECADENTGrand Junction Free Press Food Columnist

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December 20, 2012
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FOOD: Happy Holidays!

This is my last column prior to the holidays and I would like to take this time to thank all of our friends, fans and readers for another year of being able to write for you, cook for you and to live here in what I always call our "Lil Slice of Heaven" - the Grand Valley! The last 10 years have been a life-changing experience for me and I look forward to another 10!Holidays always get me thinking about family and friends. And while some of that list might be shrinking as comes with age and the passing of time, as one climbs the ladder of years, we realize that we are not going to be on this spinning ball of dirt forever and that we really should appreciate what we have and that we have an obligation to make the most of the time we have left.So with that... I really do wish all of you a Happy Holiday!Now, with the holiday season, comes the inevitable onslaught of food! Yes, friends, food will be tempting us from all angles and you know what, let's enjoy it. Whether you are hosting during the holidays, going to office parties or to friends or family or just sitting back and letting it all surround you, food will probably be a big part of this season.Traditional holiday foods abound - some you are familiar with and have made, some you have never heard of, and some that you have made your own traditions. My feeling is that if it tastes good and makes you feel good, to paraphrase Martha: "It's a Good Thing!"

Oh, some of you may have heard that Decadence is going to be doing something in Virginia next year, which is true! What this is, is an expansion and not a relocation! We will still be here, we will still be producing our food, and we will still be a part of the culinary landscape here in the Grand Valley.If you could see what I have in the vast expanse (somewhat like the great vastness of space.. a lot of nothing, but every once in a while, a bright star emerges!) of my mind; to paraphrase "2001: A Space Odyssey": "It's full of stars!"Lee is the founder and owner of Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes and Catering. He can be reached via email at decadencecheesecakes@mindspring.com, on the web at www.decadencecheesecakes.com, or by calling 970-256-4688. Also, find him on the web by searching Facebook or by visiting Twitter (@decadenceGJ).

Yield: Serves 6 to 81/2 pound bacon 2 cloves garlic 4 pounds potatoes (russets or Yukon golds), peeled and sliced 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves 1 tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper 2 1/2 cups heavy creamPotatoes au gratin's soft layers of creamy potatoes topped with a golden, slightly crispy crust, embodies the definition of comfort food, especially with a couple layers of bacon nestled in between the potatoes. The dish isn't complicated, but it does benefit from attention to detail and quality ingredients. One key to the preparation of this recipe: While baking, break the crust the cream forms a few times. This allows the cream and potatoes to slowly cook into one another, perfectly softening the layers of potato, while preventing the top layer from overcooking. After the third break, you should notice a difference in consistency of the cream and it will appear slightly more translucent, almost as if the cream was combined with melted butter.Prep tip: It helps to take a slice or two off the bottom of the potatoes before slicing the rest of it. It gives the potato a flat surface to lay on as you slice. Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Cook bacon until very lightly golden on each side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Slightly crush garlic cloves to open it up. Rub garlic over inside of 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Put sliced potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with thyme, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Layer 1/3 of potatoes in bottom of baking dish. Cover with a single layer of bacon. Layer another 1/3 of potatoes, another layer of bacon, then final layer of potatoes. Pour cream over potatoes. (Should be enough cream that when potatoes are pressed down on, cream rises above potatoes.)Place dish on sheet pan and put in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, pull out of oven and with the back of a large wooden spoon, break the crust the cream is starting to form. Return to oven. Bake for another 20 minutes and repeat crust breaking. Bake for another 20 minutes, then break the crust again. After third crust break, return to oven and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or until top is golden brown.It is best to allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before serving, since it will be very hot coming out of the oven and will hold its heat quite well.Recipe courtesy of Cooking Channel TV & Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 20, 2012 01:21PM Published Dec 20, 2012 01:19PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.