Here’s to a bright and better new year! As we often do, we stayed in and had all the Traditional Foods of the season.
First, on New Year’s Eve, there was the chips and dip course. This year I made a variation of the America’s Test Kitchen caramelized onion dip, and it was pretty good, although still a bit too sweet. We ate more vegetables with it than usual, since I ended up with vast quantities of crudites after a catered event last weekend.
Merry Christmas, happy Channukah and/or midwinter festival to everyone! We’ll be celebrating with family, and there will be stollen, pecan pie, lasagna and salumi, among other things. What are you cooking this holiday weekend?
Considering that we didn’t even know where we’d be having Thanksgiving until a few days ago, I think things worked out pretty well.
I had thawed one of our Well Fed Farms chickens and salted it ahead of time, so that even if we got stuck at home by bad weather we’d have something to cook. Fortunately there was a break between storm systems, so we were able to travel after all. We took the chicken with us to my parents’ house, and it roasted up beautifully. While it cooked we drank Cava and ate Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack cheese and Breadfarm bread, and my father and I made a joint effort on the stuffing.
Given that neither of us really had a definite idea of how to make stuffing, it came out really swell. Onions, mushrooms, a bit of celery, and lots of sage sizzled in a big skillet, then most of a loaf of Breadfarm Baker White cubed up and stirred in, then some butter and chicken stock, and about half an hour in the oven. It was everything we like in stuffing. My father did his world-class buttermilk mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce with orange, and I shredded Brussels sprouts and sauteed them until crispy.
The following night was a turkey at a friend’s house, more buttermilk mashed potatoes, totally different stuffing, more vegetables, and gravy (which we forgot to make the first night). And after both dinners, there was pie. I didn’t have my usual sweet potato pie recipe with me, so I tried one by Ruth Reichl, which we found online (I followed the recipe pretty closely, but added bourbon instead of rum). It was very good, a bit lighter and sweeter than the one I’ve made before. No-one seemed to have any complaints.
Also, there was a snowstorm on Thanksgiving day, to make the kitchen extra cozy.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your Valentine, whoever they may be. We celebrated last night instead of today, so I’d have time to cook up one of our favorite meals: seared lamb chops, garlicky white beans and a big pile of lacinato kale cooked in the bean liquid, risotto-style. For tonight we have a pot of soup that can be heated up when we get home – nothing fancy.
What’s everyone else doing for dinner tonight?
As I mentioned over on my Facebook page, I’ve been feeling a bit uninspired lately. This is mainly due to the fact that we’re trying to lose a bit of weight – eating lots of vegetables, avoiding starch and alcohol, and getting more serious about running (we’re looking at another 5K in April, then our first 8K in May). We’re eating simple preparations of food for the most part: roasted vegetables, sauteed greens, lean protein, fizzy water and tea. Not much to talk about, really.
But yesterday was Brigid, also known as Imbolc, and we always have a little private celebration to observe the return of the light and what tends to feel much more like the start of a new year than “normal” New Year. I wanted a dinner that was light, non-starchy, but a little fancy and evocative of spring, and I found one in Nigella Lawson’s new book (I love Nigella, reading her is like eating potato chips for me). It’s a very simple supper for two consisting of pan-seared sea scallops and a puree of peas flavored with creme fraiche and Thai green curry paste (a take-off of British mushy peas, I assume). I added a side of roasted asparagus, which was perfect with the other flavors, and opened a bottle of rich, buttery California chardonnay.
We celebrated the end of 2010 our usual way, with oysters and potato chips and onion dip and Good Luck Noodles and bubbly, then rang in the new year with cassoulet, followed by a serious need to lay off the carbohydrates for a while. Here’s to the new year – may it be a good one!
I hope everyone had as fun a Christmas as we did. We went to my parents’ house, bearing five pounds of fresh mussels, two loaves of bread, several packages of salumi, a bottle of wine and some cheese. My father brined and roasted a turkey and I baked a sweet potato pie. We shoveled snow to work up our appetites. It was a good weekend.
I know everyone and their mother probably has a recipe for potato pancakes, but I recently discovered a new method for making them and it’s SO GOOD. And since Hanukkah, that celebration of fried food, begins tomorrow, it seemed like a fine time to mention it.
The secret is onion – quite a lot of onion, too. Really, it makes a huge difference! Mitchell Davis, author of the very useful book Kitchen Sense, attributes the technique to his mother, and I was amazed the first time I tried it. You grate the onion alternately with the potato so its juices coat the potato shreds and keep them from browning. Then it all gets mixed together with egg and matzo meal and fried slowly, producing a savory pancake with a perfectly crunchy outside and a soft sweet interior. I’ve made them two or three times now, and they are the very best latkes I’ve ever eaten. A little horseradish creme fraiche doesn’t hurt, either.
And by the way, today marks the end of another National Blog Posting Month – I made it all 30 days! Daily posting is not likely to continue, but we’ll see where inspiration leads me. As always, thanks for reading!
Recipe after the jump…
We went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving this year.
It was very cold.
But there was coffee. And coffeecake.
And later, Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. My mother and I made the pies. Everything was fantastic.
No matter how many odd original cocktails we try, sometimes you just can’t do better than the classics. A plain gin martini, served cold and up. A Manhattan with good vermouth. Or a Negroni.
In some ways the Negroni is the perfect holiday cocktail. It’s easy to make, being equal parts gin, campari and vermouth. It can be served up or on the rocks. The campari gives it a festive color, and its bitterness cuts through salty and fatty foods beautifully – I once made gougeres and stuffed them with bits of truffled salami, and after washing them down with Negronis can hardly imagine a better pairing. The drink acts as a digestif, settling the stomach and readying it for more eating. Sounds like Thanksgiving weekend to me.
- 3/4 oz gin
- 3/4 oz campari
- 3/4 oz sweet (or dry) vermouth
- lemon or orange rind
Stir the first three ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail or rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon or orange twist.