Monday, December 31, 2007
Another holiday season has come and, nearly, gone. It was a busy season, and I didn’t do as much baking as I would have liked. However, I had a memorable day in the kitchen where I made a fantastic batch of gingerbread dough, replete with blackstrap molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and fresh-ground black pepper. Alpha and Beta then helped me roll out the dough and stamp out traditional holiday shapes—bells, trees, stockings—as well as gingerbread boys and girls (with skirts!), football helmets, and the boys’ initials (S and W, btw).
Later, I tried my hand at making candy—fleur de sel caramels, which skipped right past the soft stage on the candy thermometer, catapulting all the way to hard-crack. The result was one of the largest, and loveliest, batches of toffee I could ever have hoped for.
As you know, Hambone, Spice, and little boys were in Princeton, NJ, with Hambone’s family for a few days on either side of Christmas. On Sunday night (a week ago, yikes how time flies) we made dinner for eight adults and six children. First, I made “Thomas Jefferson-style” macaroni and cheese, which is what Alpha and Beta call the homemade version of this dish (as opposed to Annie’s brand mac-and-cheese-in-a-box). I can pretty much knock out this recipe— Marion Cunningham’s from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook—in my sleep. While the mac-and-cheese was doing in the oven, I made an easy paella, with chicken sausage, shrimp, rice, tomatoes, and peas, followed by romaine lettuce tossed with Fuji apple chunks, dates, caramelized walnuts, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
On Christmas Eve, the Stockholm (Sweden) Shepards—Hambone’s brother Will and his wife Helena—carried out their tradition of preparing a Julbord. In addition to the Jansson’s Temptation (julienned potato, sliced onions, and anchovies baked in cream), this year’s spread included sil (herring) in various sauces (wine, cream, mustard), matjes herring, smoked salmon, meatballs in gravy, boiled potatoes, spiral-cut ham, and little wieners that had been pan-fried. With the meal, we drank a 1997 Chateau Chasse-Spleen Bordeaux.
Hambone and I worked in the night kitchen making the potato roll dough, ending around 1:30 a.m. so we weren’t much help to the crew cooking the Christmas dinner. Fortunately, we were able to devour the “snacks” that had been laid out to fuel the preparations: caviar with accoutrements (scallions, chopped hard-boiled eggs, cream cheese), cheese (taleggio and some sort of blue), and a fois gras de canard from Gascony, as well as champagne. Traditionally, we’ve had the caviar, fois gras, and champagne as we open presents. Yes, it’s a truly decadent way to start the day, but it’s also very festive and special. Champagne glasses on end tables don’t mix well with babies or toddlers or older kids testing RC Air Hogs so we enjoy our treat at lunchtime. Beta decided he loves caviar, though we couldn't get him to try the Champagne.
Christmas dinner was beautiful: a golden-roasted kosher turkey accompanied by gravy, cornbread stuffing, bourbon yams from the New Orleans Cookbook, buttery steamed haricot verts, cranberry sauce, and fluffy potato rolls. Each item was delicious, but I could have been happy with nothing other than the cornbread stuffing, which was perfectly savory and moist. With the meal, we drank a complex 1990 Chateau Palmer.
On Boxing Day, after an invigorating, appetite-inducing walk on campus, we made short work of leftover turkey, which was a fine stand-in for chicken in an old-school curry. The boys didn’t even ask what we were eating, opting to load up on condiments—coconut, bacon, peanuts, bananas, tomatoes, diced hard-boiled eggs, and mango chutney. Sure, turkey sandwiches are fine, but this mildly spicy curry is my favorite way to eat leftover turkey.
I’m working on a short year-in-review, which I hope to have posted before long. Please check back, but in the mean time, have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
It’s Merry Chaos here in Princeton. In a pleasant role reversal, the children are quietly entertaining themselves with newfound Christmas booty, while the adults are indulging in much deserved champagne, caviar, and foie gras de canard (from the Gascony Mothership, no less) while the turkey cooks.
No matter where you are and what you believe, I hope that your day is filled with peace and glad tidings!