How could I have forgotten to write up all the Christmas cooking? Taking the pictures is not enough. I barely managed to snap these with the iPad, you’d think that in the dozens of times I’ve seen them there I’d have remembered to write about them.
Because we had some good food.
Christmas Eve was awesome, simply spent with my husband, three children, and midway through the evening, daughter-in-law. Many years ago we found ourselves suddenly “alone” on Christmas Eve after decades of extended family dinners, and we decided to create our own tradition of an unusual meal that we would all help plan and prepare, something great to drink, and a game or a late walk. This year we had to prep Christmas dinner as well, so dinner had to be easier and the kitchen was crazy busy. It’s not a massive kitchen but it’s a good size, and I spent many hours working with a strong designer on it. When you can easily fit four cooks in a kitchen, you did a good job planning!
My husband stays on the eating side of the room and cheers us on, but my sons and daughter, all in their 20s, are cooks, and truly carry the day for me when we have a large gathering. There was a moment when I stepped back – literally, in one of the kitchen’s doorways – and studied all of them together, aproned, laughing, bloody (two were handling large cuts of beef), floured (making pastry), my husband opening a bottle of wine – and tried to just burn them into my brain for a day when I need the memory.
The menu for Christmas Eve, short and sweet, since we had a lot to prep for the next day:
Spinach, Pear, Blue Cheese, and Rosemary Galettes made with Walnut Pastry
Cheese Fondue with Baguettes
Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake
The galettes are a family favorite, and my daughter took over and prepared them for our Christmas Eve meal. They are delicious and quite worth making from this recipe from NPR’s Kitchen Window. We, however, make them with much more filling than they have as written, and use this recipe for Walnut Pastry Dough from eatingwell.com:
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil
- 6-7 tablespoons cold water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Spread walnuts in a pie pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool.
- Combine the walnuts, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; process until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Drizzle oil over the flour mixture. Use your fingertips to rub the oil into the mixture. One tablespoon at a time, add water and mix with a fork until dough is crumbly and holds together when pressed.
- Divide dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other, and form each into a disk.
For our purposes the dough is divided into smaller pieces and rolled into circles, the amount of filling on hand is divided among the circles, and the galettes are formed. The size of the circles is dictated by how large the galettes will be when finished, which is entirely up to the cook.
I have been wanting to try the Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake since the day I bought the La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life cookbook last summer. I have made many of her recipes – multiple times, which is the real test – so it was only a matter of time that one would disappoint.
Perhaps it was us, maybe we wanted something sweeter, maybe there were too many Godiva chocolates in the house, so try it yourself. It certainly was moist, it was beautiful, and we didn’t turn our noses up at it by any means, but it just wasn’t worth repeating.
Finally, the Szechuan Buttons. If your husband tells you to expect an overnight package and to put it directly in the fridge; worry.
He heard a piece about these little culinary trendy things on NPR and thought it would be great fun to have them in our house for Christmas.
He was right!
They are…electric? Fizzy? Not hot, spicy, bubby, or scary. If you nibble tentatively on one and wait a few seconds, you’ll get the feeling of Pop Rocks, maybe. Have you ever quick touched your tongue to the end of a 9 volt battery to see if it still had a charge? Kinda sorta like that, but not really. It’s just hard to explain. It seems to be more of a sensation than a taste.
They are being ground up and sprinkled on salads, rimmed onto drink glasses, and steeped into alcohol by creative restaurants. My husband was delighted when they came, hid them in the back of the fridge (I was in on it by that time, nothing is hiding from me in my refrigerator) and set about for days steeping some in jars of different types of alcohol. Tasting them was fun, but watching him prepare his surprise, and torture the kids with hints, was way better.
For about a week, down to the last solitary bud, anyone who walked into the house was met with cries of “Try one of these! Here’s something for you!” with varying degrees of success, if success is measured by enjoyment. This is a love or hate sensation, it seems, but definitely fun for your next party!
In the meantime, on this evening, we prepared two huge pots of Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, a small vegetarian version, finished proofing the dinner rolls, made a dacquoise that I can’t wait to write about, and, of course, prepared the dining room and extra table. That is the next post.