It’s New Year’s Eve! I’m looking forward to 2017 and all of the opportunities, challenges, connections and blessings it will bring. And I have to acknowledge that one of the big opportunities and blessings for me in 2016 was sharing a few thoughts, recipes and haikus with you in this blog – and the interactions and connections that spawned. Thank you!
There’s no time to create a compelling post at the moment – the Christmas tree’s undoing beckons!- so I will wish everyone a safe and happy celebration tonight, and simply repost a New Year’s Day Brunch menu from last year.
My recommended New Year’s Brunch Menu (which can also be a lovely New Year’s Eve menu if you’re having a party):
Epicurious sends a message every day, just for me (and their umpteen zillion other subscribers). I usually don’t have time to read it right away (or ever, sometimes), but today’s caught my eye. It listed their top ten stories of 2016, and as a food blogger, I was interested to see what generated the most interest. They introduced the list:
Cooking made us happier in 2016 (there’s proof!), and so did these stories, which are our ten most loved, clicked-on, and shared stories of the year.
They’re all interesting, and I’ve provided the link to the online version at the end of this post. But the one that stood out was #6 on the list, “The Case Against Baby Carrots” by Adina Steinman.
Here’s the scoop: baby carrots aren’t babies at all!!! They are full-grown carrots masquerading as cute, younger, fake versions of themselves after some vegetable-style cosmetic surgery.
Sez the story, which is subtitled “Why Baby Carrots are Evil”:
Baby carrots are in fact full-grown carrots, whittled down into earplug-shaped cylinders. They aren’t sweeter, fresher, or younger than the bunches of carrots they’re sold alongside. In fact, they’re often made from older carrots, hence the starchy, not-very-sweet flavor you get from some bags.
It’s an outrage, and as the writer says, these carrots are pure evil. I will never, ever buy these manually-midgeted carrots again. I have no idea why I didn’t realize they were a sham, but from today forward, I am committed to peeling the authentic full-grown versions.
In honor of the noble, full-sized root vegetable, here is a picture and a recipe that a friend of mine brought to a wine party, made with beautiful heirloom carrots. They are tossed with sumac and mint, topped with toasted pistachios and served on a bed of marvelous whipped feta. They were delicious!
Here’s how it looks in the magazine where he found the recipe.
I love to decorate the Christmas tree each year and remember the where, when and who of each ornament. We have tinsel from my paternal grandmother’s tree dating back to the 50s, kitschy baubles we picked up to remember family holidays, ornaments from my mother-in-law’s native Germany, handmade treasures from craftsy folks and schoolchildren, and gifts from years and years of stuffed stockings and generous colleagues. Decorating a Christmas tree together and talking about the ornaments is almost like a family’s oral history. I woke up this morning with this haiku about the tree in my head.
Ode to My Christmas Tree
Decorated, you are evergreen memories, ghosts of Christmas Past.
We love our holiday food classics here at Glover Gardens, but it is also fun to mix it up a bit. At Thanksgiving this year, my Aunt-Mom (there’s a story for another time) did just that with these wonderful sweet potato “stacks” she found in Cooking Light. Yum! And look how attractive they are.
My Aunt-Mom says she doesn’t like to cook but is really, really good at finding great new recipes. This one can be found online at Cooking Light’s site here: Sweet Potato Stacks with Browned Butter.
Christmas Eve is tomorrow! Today’s the day that I stay home, get caught up on wrapping gifts, and bake, bake, bake.
I have a small TV in the kitchen, and it is almost always tuned to Turner Classic Movies (first choice) or the TV Food Network (distant second). Movie classics I first saw with my Dad 30+ years ago (when they were already old!) keep me company while I turn out the family classic recipes.
I’m in luck today because Myrna Loy is the Star of the Month and the lineup presents her in back-to-back features with William Powell, all day long. Woohoo! (It’s the little things.) Did you know that these two stars made 14 movies together? I have always been a fan of the Thin Man series but didn’t realize how many other times they were paired up, mostly for comedies, but with a few dramas in the mix. They’ve started already this morning with a crime drama, Manhattan Melodrama, which also stars Clark Gable. Heaven.
I’m all giddy because my mother-in-law is hosting the annual Christmas Eve appetizers and stocking fest and I’m only responsible for desserts, a great balance since the Christmas Day shindig and feast is here is Glover Gardens. My Friday kitchen lineup is below.
I like to serve these Raspberry-Nut bars at holiday parties with decadent partners, like drams of Chambord (raspberry liqueur).
Cranberry-Walnut Chocolate-Covered Cookie Mountains, luscious chocolate-chip cookies made decadent by dipping them in chocolate post-baking, a close second in my mother-in-law’s estimation. (Recipe not published yet, but maybe after today’s batch.)
The dressing. Even though we aren’t having turkey this Christmas, the dressing is a MUST. It could be a meal in itself. I’m going to try to finalize the recipe and publish it. Family recipes that are made with muscle memory because you’ve done it dozens of times are the hardest to document, don’t you think? Like trying to tell someone how to tie a shoe without demonstrating it.
If I have time, these truffles from The Irreverent Kitchen blog. Don’t they look good? Alicia, who publishes the blog, says they are really easy. And it looks like fun. I think I might be able to wangle a little help with them from the millennials who have decamped at Glover Gardens for the duration of the Christmas holiday. (We are filled with joy to have a full house this year.)
Some of the most alluring recipes I’ve come across in my years of cooking have been published in Wine Spectator. They are always perfectly paired with wine, described delectably and photographed beautifully, and I’ve been known to keep back issues for years, planning to make that picture-perfect meal a reality in my kitchen. Someday.
The December 23, 2002 issue had just such a meal: A Holiday Menu from Wine Country. Oh my, it looked good: White Bean Soup with Fried Sage, Pan-Roasted Duck with Root Vegetable Hash and Sweet Potato Puree…whee! I held onto that issue of Wine Spectator for a couple of years, revisiting the recipe and ingredients a bit wistfully from time to time while realizing that my everyday life with a small child didn’t really support making this super-sophisticated meal. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. I finally broke out that recipe for a very small girls’ night at my house during the holidays a few years later. It was just two of my closest friends and me, ready to cook, laugh, tell stories and maybe even cry a little (if necessary) in the little kitchen of my 1920s wood-frame cottage. Two of us were single moms at the time, and the third a “restaurant widow”: her husband was the managing partner at a very popular restaurant, and was never home in the evenings. All three of us were without children that night, for various reasons. “Like sailors on leave,” one of them said.
The menu from the magazine, billed as an easy holiday meal to make at home, was provided by the executive chef of Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil, Richard Reddington, who was described as wine country’s “hottest young chef”.
The last thing I want to do on a holiday is kill myself in the kitchen,” Reddington says. “I want to be done and I want the kitchen to be clean and I want to sit down with my guests for an hour and drink a glass of sparkling wine.”
Gentle readers, you should know that there are definitely different definitions of “easy”. Easy, it was not. Tasty, it was. Might as well drink that sparkling wine while you’re making the dinner, because it will be a while before you get to the finish line.
In my little kitchen with my two girl-buddies, there was a frenzy of chopping and chatter, and it took us a couple of hours to get the meal made. We had a marvelous time, uncovering the meaning of life and praising the fiber of root vegetables as we sautéed each of them individually before mixing them (they don’t cook at the same rate and might get mushy if crammed together in a pan). We also praised ourselves for being smart and sophisticated enough to appreciate root vegetables – no bourgeoisie, we! We exclaimed over the richness of the pureed sweet potatoes as we laid crispy-skinned pan-fried duck on them and began the devouring.
We drank our wine and told our stories with the desperate urgency of moms who only have a night off a couple of times per year – and of course the kids took center stage in all of those stories.
We knew were were the luckiest gals in the world that December evening, with our wine, our stories, and our fiber-laden root vegetables. I cherish the memories of that night, with that meal, and those ladies. One of them has left us and is now cooking with the angels, and I imagine her in heaven savoring the super-crispy duck skin with the rich, smooth pureed sweet potato and crunchy, root vegetable hash without worrying about the calories. If you’re interested, you can read more about her here, but grab a cup of coffee first, ’cause it’s a long one.
Gather some friends and try these recipes one day when you have time. They won’t be quick and easy, but you won’t be sorry. Here it is again: A Holiday Menu from Wine Country.