Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone! I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas are having a very joyful one. I still feel like I'm in hustle-and-bustle mode myself. Yesterday, I ran around to all the neighbors delivering cookies, and this special peppermint brownie tree to the nice farmer behind us who lets us use part of his property to house the chickens and plant vegetables in the summer. (Thank you!)

Then today, I zipped around town, delivering another Raspberry Almond Torte to Janice's house for the Feast of the Seven Fishes with her family, and also dropping off some bittersweet fudge sauce for my chocoholic friend, Angela. I also popped in on June and Tom to deliver some gifts, but I'm afraid none of those were homemade. For June, I got a copy of Elf which I love so much and she has never seen, and also some chocolate-covered dried sour cherries from my last Trader Joe's pilgrimage. For Tom, I got canned tamales (I know, I know, but he loves them for some reason, and June won't allow him to buy them for himself!) and also the best raspberry jam in the world from the dog-catcher/jam-maker in Mooers. I used to think his quad-berry with four different kinds/colors of raspberries was the best. But the last time I was up there, he gave me a sample jar of his low-sugar raspberry, and I swear, that stuff tastes just like fresh raspberries! (And Tom is always complaining that he loves raspberries, but not raspberry-flavored things. This ought to change his tune!) After the Konda-Foleys, it was off to the traditional Christmas Eve Chinese food dinner before the candlelight and carols service at the Lutheran church.

Sounds like a full Christmas Eve, eh? But after we got home from church, I still had to prep the roast beast with a wet rub made of garlic, salt, black pepper, whole-grain mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Cyd also made the batter for her gorgonzola popovers (it's better if it sits overnight). And finally, I needed to bake my pies. Since it will be a very small affair tomorrow with just me and the roomie, her friend, Rachel, and our dear next-door neighbor, Ken, we are keeping it very simple and just including our personal favorites. Shrimp with a spicy remoulade will be the pre-function. Then we will have the rib roast but instead of Yorkshire pudding, we'll have the gorgonzola popovers (a tried-and-true Martha recipe). We'll also have herbed red potatoes (that's right, with fresh herbs from the garden--might as well!), brussel sprouts with bacon (ick--those are for Cyd), and succotash for me (which Cyd hates). Then, for dessert, we will have the very best pecan pie in the whole world--yes, I'm brazen enough to make that claim!

As I have posted about before, the recipe I use comes from my beloved friend, Kurt, by way of, I believe, Betty Crocker? But I have made adaptations to the recipe over the years, like increasing the amount of pecans (more is more!), adding a pinch of salt, and using half dark and half light corn syrups (or, even better, using the new brown sugar-flavored Karo corn syrup). Other adaptations I have made even more recently, largely due to Anna over at Cookie Madness, herself an obsessive pecan pie baker and addict. Her insistence on toasting the pecans and browning the butter beforehand took my pecan pie to a whole new level! But the best change that I have made to the recipe comes from living so near to Quebec. Across the border, they don't fear lard as we do, and they embrace the ultra-flakiness that a lard crust provides. The best-selling brand of lard in their stores seems to be something called Tenderflake, and the same company also makes frozen pie shells. The package says that they are deep-dish pie crusts, but that is a laughable claim. Not only are they small (eight inches?), but they are very shallow. So I make one recipe for the pecan pie filling, but divide it into the two smaller shells. As I am the sort that likes a very low goo-to-nuts ratio, this is a PERFECT solution to the problem of too much of the gelatinous goo. Along those same lines, I am trying one more tip from Anna about using potato starch in place of flour as a thickener. She says that it makes the filling less wobbly and jelly-like but still soft and supple. We'll see. I tried it this time, and the filling seemed to bake up the same way. (I'll let you know more about the taste and texture after we sample the pies tomorrow.)*

Whatever you're cooking and serving for the big day tomorrow, I hope you enjoy your meal surrounded by friends and family and joy and peace.


*Follow-up: Anna was right, as usual. The potato starch worked perfectly in the pies. It made a soft but less gelatinous filling that tasted great. I definitely recommend trying it as a thickener for your favorite pies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Randi said...
The pies look great, but I respectfully disagree about those tenderflake crusts. I hate them!! I much prefer Martha's pate brise. Have you tried that? The flavor is wonderful.