It will be several more days before the Musical Millennial can collect his stocking stuffers, because he’s on a New Year’s trip to the Northeast. Ethical question: is it ok for me to dip into the goodies (I like spicy stuff!) since he left them?
Glover Gardens Christmas festivities over the holidays have kept my blogging time to less than zero. That’s fine with me because we had a great time with friends and family, and I didn’t want to spend a moment of it on the computer. Maybe next year I’ll be more organized and set up a bunch of posts ahead of time…maybe. For 2018, this one post is a great big a roundup of our holiday week.
There was food! The Girl Who is Always Hungry (our daughter-in-law, married to The Best Eater) brought us 5.5 lbs. of homemade cookies. Can you believe it? That’s her below snapping pics of the bounty she provided.
The cookie-making and decorating effort took The Girl Who is Always Hungry a whole weekend in mid-December and the resulting sweet treasures made many folks happy. Here’s a quick video she took during the process that shows the extent of her holiday baking adventures.
There was cooking at Glover Gardens, too, although not much of it was photographed. A huge victory for me was finally getting precise on the family dressing recipe that evolved over years and years (and I do mean years and years) in my family. Folks, it is HARD to precisely document a three-generation family recipe! There’s a back story, but it will have to wait until the 2019 holiday season when I post the recipe. I’m eternally grateful to my Sister-in-Love for helping me out with the recipe documentation, tasting and amount-deciding. That’s her below tearing up the stale bread for the dressing.
Our first big night together for the 2018 Christmas Extravaganza included a baked potato bar with all the regular toppings plus The Grill-Meister’s smoked chicken and pulled pork made by the Musical Millennial in a crock pot. There aren’t any pictures except for the deboning of the smoked chicken. It’s a messy job!
We had multiple multi-generational events, including an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. While the contestants ranged from 19 to early 70s, the panel of judges included two in their late 80s. Oh, what fun it was.
The Grill-Meister brought home the first-place Ugly Christmas Sweater prize! I promise, the judging was impartial, no votes were not counted, and I wasn’t on the election committee! That’s The Grill-Meister below on the right posing in his award-winning Christmas tree sweater/costume with the 2nd place winner, His Grinchiness.
The winners posed for photos with their adoring spouses.
Millennials had loads of fun taking pics.
All in all, an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest is a beautiful thing. And fun!!!
Traditional Christmas Eve happenings were a plethora of appetizers and our big stocking reveal, hosted by the Grill-Meister’s parents, transplants from Washington State who now live just 3 minutes away. Mom-in-law is actually from Germany, which influences their Christmas Eve menu. There is always a variety of imported meats and cheeses and potato salad, which I learned was a German / Eastern European thing.
Christmas Day brought a gaggle of gifts, more cooking and more eating.
Food-wise, here was a very safely-done, very successfully-done deep-fried turkey. The method is great, the turkey was moist, and next year’s holiday posts will tell you EXACTLY how The Grill-Meister and The Best Eater did it.
There was also the ubiquitous green bean casserole, made by my niece. I’m a self-admitted food snob and won’t make something from the back of a can, although not so much of a snob that I didn’t eat any! She did a great job; I actually liked it. The green bean-to-goo ratio was higher than the standard recipe calls for, and it made a difference.
There was a lot more food that we didn’t photograph, but my niece got a great shot of her meal. And yes, if you’re wondering, I served Christmas dinner on paper plates – and I’m not sorry! They were festive red and large, and looked great alongside my grandmother’s silver cutlery. The peppermint stick place cards were made by my Aunt-Mom and me just a day after she got out of the hospital after abdominal surgery. She’s a quick healer and a whiz with a glue gun.
All through the week, at these events and others, the biggest gift was love, so much love; many, many special moments and connections between two or more of us…some shared and some private, some in remembrance of those whose stockings will never hang over the mantel again, some in joyful gratitude that we have each other right now.
Wishing you all the continued happiness of the season as we march toward the new year, the Gang from Glover Gardens.
We’re without the next-gen here at Glover Gardens on Christmas Day 2017, so we’re throwing tradition to the wind and going out to a restaurant. Turkeys will not bake, smoke or fry here. Rolls will not rise, cranberries will not pop-pop-pop, and gravy will not be de-lumped. None of our prized sides will compete for best in show on heavy-laden plates. Our collection of Christmas salt and pepper shakers will not adorn an over-decorated holiday table (for context, see our post Setting a Beautiful Table – Whimsical Christmas) . SIGH.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy our recipes at your own holiday table! Here is a Glover Gardens holiday recipe compendium, starting with breakfast.
We’ve made the mistake in past years of having too many appetizers and getting full by turkey time, but the one appetizer we always have on holidays is house-made smoked salmon. Get the recipe here: Tom’s Smoked Salmon.
We usually have two turkeys to ensure plenty of leftovers (turkey gumbo is the best!) and have tried a variety of recipes in the past. The Grill-Meister will do one outside (usually smoked) and I’ll go the baked route. For several years, I’ve used the spatchcocking approach, and the turkey is always very moist. Spatchcocking maximizes the skin surface for that crispy goodness and enables the turkey to cook more evenly than as a whole bird; read about it here: Spatchcocked Turkey. Say What?
Another recipe that uses corn is one that I found in a magazine: Food Magazine Treasures: Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding . This recipe is a little off the beaten path for holiday dinners, but if you’re in the Southwest, anything goes, chili pepper-wise. I sneak this dish onto our holiday table about every three years, and someone (usually the Grill-Meister) says. “why don’t we have this more often?”
And then there’s the squash. I love all kinds of squash and am on a mission to get the Grill-Meister to tolerate it. A super-simple holiday side dish is here: Simple Autumn Side: Baked Acorn Squash.
I’m not really a baker, but I make cookies during the holidays, mostly at my mother-in-law’s request. This is her favorite recipe: Raspberry-Nut Christmas Bars.
The finished product has a lovely, golden-brown crust.
I like to serve these bars at holiday parties with decadent partners, like drams of Chambord (raspberry liqueur).
Our go-to favorite in the cookie department at any time of year is the Glover Gardens Comfort Cookies, a version of the Cowboy Cookie (just call it an Everything Cookie). I just made a huge batch for our Musical Millennial, who is home from college and had a passel of friends over…not a morsel was left.
Jumbo Comfort Cookies are a family favorite
Have a Comfort Cookie with a nightcap of Frangelico, or in the morning with coffee
December 28th is “Christmas”
Don’t feel too sorry for us for doing that restaurant outing on Christmas Day; we’ll get our millennials back on Dec. 28th and will have our big family celebration then. Some of these Glover Gardens classics will be on the menu, and if there’s anything new, we’ll be sure to share it.
Peace, goodwill and happy holidays to you and yours, whatever joyous occasion you celebrate. Ours is Christmas.
My grandmother, “Mema”, was a wonderful cook, producing Southern food in classic grandmotherly style: something was always just coming out of the oven,just for you, whenever you wandered into her kitchen. There she was, in one of those shapeless cotton shift apron dresses she always wore at home, stooping slightly, smiling warmly and crinkling her green eyes as she pushed the butter dish toward you and heaped a few sweet potato biscuits or the yeast rolls we’ve always called “Mema Rolls” onto a plate. Mema’s kitchen seemed like heaven to us hungry grandchildren on cold winter mornings when our families gathered in at her home Sweetwater for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I’ve searched and searched and can’t find a single picture of Mema in her kitchen, but I think you can imagine it: small, all of the meager counter space being used at all times for important things like rolls rising, jars waiting for to be filled with vegetables for canning, a big pot of tea steeping, an old metal percolator burping coffee sounds. Delectable aromas at all times. A squeaky back door with a window looking out onto a small yard patrolled by a huge, old scarred-up black tomcat named Midnight. A sturdy formica and chrome table from the early 50s standing right in the middle of the activity, surrounded by six chairs that matched it – and several others that didn’t. Mema’s table was set up for maximum capacity.
A giant double-door refrigerator/freezer was always packed full of fresh and frozen food, because, although she lived alone, Mema was ready for a crowd at all times; by golly, no one would go hungry at her house! (We could have fed most of Sweetwater with the frozen food we cleaned out of her freezer when she moved in with my aunt toward the end of her life.)
Born in 1910, Mema came of age during the Great Depression and the resourcefulness she developed during that time was one of the hallmarks of her personality, in addition to her strong faith. In fact, she continued to work until she was in her late 80s, acting as a companion and helper for her next-door neighbor, who was actually younger than my grandmother. She called this job “sitting with Miz Butler”. Mema, whose name was Memery Frank Harvell (there’s a story there!) was a wonderful role model for her children – and many others – and probably one of the reasons I get so much joy out of cooking from old family recipes. Which brings me to today’s subject and recipe: “Mema Rolls”, AKA “Nana Rolls” by some of my cousins.
Mema’s rolls are legendary across the family and staples on all of our holiday dinner repertoires as my Dad and his siblings carried on the tradition, each in their own families. At Glover Gardens, Dad was always responsible for bringing the rolls to holiday dinners. Dad is in heaven making rolls with Mema now, and on his last Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with us in 2016, he was unable to eat because of esophagus problems and other health issues. It was time for me to figure it out.
But first, there was a collection of Mema Rolls recipes to sift through (pun intended). The treasured formula had been documented many times – and with some variation – over the years, and Dad and his siblings were pretty much making it from memory by now. But I needed to figure out which one to use, and how to fill in the blanks on the missing steps my elders had somehow absorbed by osmosis. Check out the resources I had at my fingertips below – 5 different variations of the marvelous pillows of yeasty goodness, with names ranging from “Rolls”, “Bread or Rolls”, “Refrigerator Rolls”, and one version that used condensed milk, “Eaglebrand Rolls”. Richness! One of the versions of the recipe was published in my parents’ cookbook, which I’ve written about before, also a source a richness. That’s probably the one that my Dad used.
These artifacts are gold in terms of family history and heritage, and in fact, on one of the recipe cards, there’s a notation: “Mema wrote this”. It looks like her handwriting and makes me wonder if she knew it would be a future treasure. Or was it one of my aunts, making sure that generations to come would know the recipe was from the hand of the master roll-maker? (Dear Aunts, if you’re reading this, let me know.)
I looked at all these recipes last Thanksgiving (2016), figured out what was in common and gave the Mema Rolls a try, calling Dad once or twice for consultation. I needed his help: the amounts of flour were different in some of the recipes, the oven temperature varied and they were written in family shorthand. There were just not enough words to explain exactly how to make these legendary rolls.
This endeavor was bittersweet; I wanted Dad to be proud and happy that I was carrying on the family tradition (he was), but it would have been so much better if he could have tasted them. As always, Dad brought his camera to Thanksgiving, which would be his last, and he took this picture of my first-ever Mema Rolls. I cherish it.
Don’t they look good? But I made a big mistake when making the rolls last year: I didn’t write down the steps and the resolution to all the tiny questions I had for Dad. And I just couldn’t publish the recipe in its family shorthand state, because that would leave it to the reader to ask all the same questions. So my new daughter-in-law and I tackled it together this year. The Girl Who is Always Hungry (her self-chosen name in the blog) did the work, and I wrote everything down as we figured it out. We were both pleased and proud, and I could feel the spirits of Dad and Mema smiling on us. As I’ve said before: “Family history: love on a plate.”
Mema Rolls (makes about 5 dozen)
1 cup plus 2 cups warm water (between 110°F – 115°F)
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 package)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, separated
2/3 cup shortening (not oil)
1 scant tbsp salt
7-8 cups flour, separated (start with 2 cups, then 5, then the optional last one)
In a small bowl, combine the yeast and 2 tbsp of sugar with 1 cup of warm water, stirring to dissolve. Set aside and let stand until foamy. (If the yeast mixture doesn’t produce bubble and foam within 5 minutes, discard the mixture and start over again with different yeast.)
In a large bowl or a mixer, stir together the remaining 2 cups of warm water, 1/2 cup of sugar, salt and shortening, then add two cups of flour and mix. Then add the yeast mixture and mix until smooth. Add 5 cups of the remaining flour in two batches and stir by hand, or, if you’re using the mixer, mix on low speed (using the dough hook) until you have a smooth, soft dough, adding in the last cup of flour if the dough is too sticky to form a ball. Knead until the dough feels elastic, about 3 minutes with the dough hook in the mixer or 5 minutes by hand.
Coat a medium bowl thoroughly with cooking spray and place the dough ball in it, turning to coat all surfaces. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to a week.
When you are ready to bake the rolls, flour your hands and then shape and finish as desired (see below). Put the rolls in pans or on cookie sheets, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Bake at 425° for 12-14 minutes.
Shaping the Rolls
Simple Squares (this is what The Girl Who is Always Hungry and I did and is the easiest and quickest of the options)
Divide the dough into four sections (after it has been refrigerated). Loosely roll or pat out a section on a lightly floured cutting board or pastry board in a large rectangle to a thickness of about 1 inch, then cut into 2″ x 2″ squares. Place on a greased cookie sheet, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Repeat for the remaining sections. Bake as directed.
Note: The Girl Who is Always Hungry did a neat trick when she was shaping the rolls. There are little bits of dough left from the edges after cutting the squares, and instead of combining and rolling them out again to make them into squares, she baked the little bits and called them cocktail-sized rolls. They were marvelous and had the added bonus of being just right for one-bite tasting.
Parkerhouse (this is how Mema usually made them)
In a small bowl, melt a stick of butter. Divide the dough into four sections (after it has been refrigerated). Loosely roll or pat out a section on a lightly floured cutting board or pastry board to a thickness of about 1 inch and use a round cookie cutter to cut the rolls. Dip each roll into the butter until it is covered on all sides, then fold it in half, pressing it together slightly, and put it on a cookie sheet or in a pan, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Repeat for the remaining sections. Bake as directed.
In a small bowl, melt a stick of butter. Pat out the dough on a lightly floured cutting board or pastry board to a thickness of about 2 inches, then pinch off small pieces and shape into balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and roll them in the butter, then put them in the muffin tin, three to a section. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Bake as directed.
More How-To Stuff
Note: you can either arrange the rolls with space between them on a cookie sheet, which will provide more territory to get browned, or have them almost touching in a pie pan, which will keep them soft on the sides. If you decide to have them touching, be sure to use one of the butter approaches listed above.
Another note: if you’d like a shiny crust, add an egg wash. Beat the white of an egg and about a teaspoon of water in a small bowl and brush it onto the rolls with a pastry brush just before baking.
And yet another note: you can bake the rolls in different batches at different times, which is probably why one of the names is Refrigerator Rolls. Imagine the dough in your fridge, just sitting in there waiting to be shaped and baked, so that you can have a few rolls with your dinner even on a weeknight when you’re in a time-crunch frenzy. This is how Mema accomplished her grandmotherly magic trick of always having something just coming out of the oven, just for you, whenever you wandered into her kitchen.
Another memory preserved, another recipe shared, another way to remember you, Dad, til I see you again.
Outtakes: I was so busy writing everything down and being the sous chef / prepping for The Girl Who is Always Hungry, that I did a lousy job taking pictures of the process. Here are a few, anyway.
Holiday dinners are about tradition, traditional recipes and taste memories that carry meaning beyond anything our taste buds can comprehend; here are some from my family’s table:
The yeast rolls from “Mema’s” recipe, almost the basis for a religion (you know I’m right).
The stuffing/dressing. It.Must.Be.Right. There’s a whole, as-yet unpublished story about the evolution of the dressing in my family, a North-South conflict that threatened my parents’ marriage until it was resolved. I’ll come back to that later, but before Christmas, because I promised a dressing devotee that I’d document it.
That green bean casserole that no one should like because it has all those extra-processed ingredients – hello, “French”-friend onions from a can!!!??? Someone in my family always manages to sneak that dish in, and they all look at me to see if I will break into food-snob mode and castigate them. This year, I relaxed my standards and had a few bites at Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis. Yet.
The faux cranberry-something in a can (another anathema to me, but hey, some of my loved ones swear by it, and so does Rick Bragg). To counter this abomination, I actually make cranberry relish from scratch, and I’m usually the only one who eats it. I’m ok with that.
Sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping (where o’ where did that come from???)
The fresh creamed corn made from a 75-year old recipe.
That last bit, the creamed corn, is the subject of today’s post. This is serious business.My Dad always made my grandmother Mema’s creamed corn (once she was finished making it; she’s been doing Thanksgiving for the angels since 2000). Dad earnestly took Mema’s recipe and made it his own. The documentation of her recipe is below, from a school project my aunt undertook years ago.
My aunt’s notes below the instructions are a testimonial:
This was the way I had eaten corn all my life until I married. It was a big let-down to try canned cream corn and I have made it a point to use this recipe often.”
I wanted to get the latest take on this, so in 2015, I asked Dad, via email:
Dad – I found Mema’s recipe for creamed corn (from Aunt Lynda). It used corn, butter, water, salt and pepper. I think you said you used cream instead, and white pepper. Is that right?
He was immediately forthcoming, as this was an important issue in the family:
Kim, last year I followed mom’s recipe to the letter and I’m sure you remember it had too much butter. This year I followed my recipe with just a lot of white pepper, maybe a tablespoon of butter and less than a cup of water. Much better.
Dad is gone now. I’m having a hard time believing that he will not be bringing creamed corn every year, or ever again. Last year at Thanksgiving (2016), because of an illness, he was out of the hospital but on a stomach feeding tube, and couldn’t eat – or even taste – anything, but he still made his famous creamed corn. Did I mention that this creamed corn is from scratch, starting with fresh corn on the cob and never, ever frozen or canned – don’t even think about it!
Dad was an amazing optimist; taking a bit of every dish at our 2016 Thanksgiving table of bounty, he made a to-go container that he froze for a time in the future when he would be able to eat again. That time didn’t come. He left us in June of this year, never having gotten clearance to eat normally again, never thawing and enjoying that belated Thanksgiving feast. I miss him every day. But I feel his presence every day, too.
But here I go digressing again. Let’s do the recipe! This year, I made the creamed corn myself for the first time in advance of our 2017 Thanksgiving celebration. Hoping not to create a family controversy, I made some minor modifications to update the classic recipe while preserving its simple elegance. Since no one noticed, I think I’m in the clear. The major differences were that I used cream instead of water, added a bit more of a savory taste with a small amount of sautéed leeks, and the secret ingredient – ground nutmeg.
Using the vintage corn scraper handed down from my father and grandmother, and with their recipe notes as a guide, I was deep in the heart of family taste memories when I made this dish.
Harvell Family Creamed Corn (serves 8-10)
8 large cobs of fresh corn
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped leeks
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg or about 50 scrapes of fresh nutmeg (preferred)
1 green onion, very thinly sliced
Shuck the corn cobs and wash off any stray silk. Use a corn scraper or knife to cut all of the kernels from the cobs, collecting them in a large bowl.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the leeks and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the corn and “corn milk” and continue to sauté on medium for 7-10 minutes until the mixture is thickened and the corn is soft. Add the cream, salt and white pepper and cook for about 5 more minutes until the cream has thickened. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
Serve hot and garnish with the sliced green onion.
Note: The creamed corn will keep for several days in the fridge, so you can make it early. It won’t seem like a large amount, but it is very rich, so a small serving is just right.
The end product is a rich, creamy dish that makes you nostalgic for the old days when life was simpler, people were kinder and you could borrow an egg from your neighbor, even if you never experienced any “old days” in that way.
Check out my post about the usefulness of a corn scraperhere, and check out this other blogfor the deep-dive into the mechanics of the use of a scraper. And let me know if you make the Harvell Family Creamed Corn for your holiday table.
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.