Katie Potatoes

Yesterday was our niece’s 24th birthday.

Well, she’s not our niece by blood, but by desire. Katie and her older siblings, Christina and Andrew, started referring to us as Aunt Beth and Uncle Bryan a number of years ago, and we’re honored that they feel that way.

Over the years, it’s become our habit to celebrate Katie’s birthday — on the closest weekend to it — with her family at their lake house. Among the many traditions we’ve established there is the making of her birthday supper, which always includes what have become known as Katie Potatoes.

If my memory is correct, the first time Katie sampled these potatoes and declared them her favorite was at our house, when she was a somewhat unexpected — but very welcome — dinner guest. Her enthusiasm for the dish was so great that I immediately dubbed it Katie Potatoes. Although the lack of a sharp knife and cooking it on the grill has sometimes made assembling the dish a challenge at the lake house, we have persevered and made them every year. And Katie’s enthusiasm for it never wanes.

This year, alas, due to some conflicts we won’t be spending the weekend with Katie at the lake, but I might have to bake up a batch of Katie Potatoes in her honor.

Like many favorite dishes, this is more of a method than a recipe. If cooking on a grill, use an old pan or a disposable foil one and cook over indirect heat. You can change the cheese to suit your own tastes, although a cheese that melts easily works best.

Katie Potatoes

Prepare an 8- by 8-inch or 9- by 13-inch baking dish by liberally coating it with butter or margarine. Slice potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, your preference) thinly (1/8 inch or less) and place 2 layers in the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of diced or thinly sliced onion, thinly sliced or grated pepper jack cheese, one processed Swiss cheese slice, torn into small pieces and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Continue to add layers of potato, onion and cheese in this fashion until it reaches the top of the pan. End with a layer of onion to keep the cheese from sticking to foil.

Over top of potatoes, pour one 16-ounce can chicken broth (use less if using the smaller size pan). Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until potatoes are tender and broth has evaporated.