Monday, January 18, 2010

First Christmas in the new house...such as it was.

MERRRRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS, everybody! Yeah, yeah, I know. I am weeks behind in that salutation. But I am still trying to catch up from the month that fell into the black hole! I don't even have too much to share recipe-wise, as the new kitchen was not unpacked (having just completed the move on 12/23). But I thought you might get a kick out of seeing the fabulous Christmas Eve dinner that we somehow managed to pull off--the first real meal prepared in the new house! Of course, it was served on paper plates, but it was still delicious! TA-DAH!

I don't know what your feelings are about the hallowed holiday protein alternatives, but many years ago, Cyd and I decided that our choice would be the roast beast. It always seems like we're just finishing up the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers by the time Christmas rolls around, as I always end up buying a huge bird, and there's just the two of us to eat it (maybe three, if I shared with neighbor Ken). And then ham says Easter to me, so that's right out. Thus, roast beef seems the best option.

Moreover, I had a great student this past semester who did her informative speech on English food (she was born there), and some of her Power Point images gave me a real hankering for a proper Yorkshire pudding! This time, I tried a recipe from my boyfriend, Tyler Florence (who I am pleased to see has NOT crossed over to the dark side and become disturbingly emaciated like my husband, Alton Brown!). It turned out puffy and golden and delicious--like Tyler himself, and just like the giant popover that it is. Tradition dictates that you eat the Yorkshire pudding with gravy, but I didn't make any this time (couldn't begin to locate a whisk). Besides, I like to tear off hunks and just eat it like bread with my meal. Another way to do it is to make individual puddings, which I probably would have done had I been able to find a muffin tin!

Yorkshire Pudding
(Source: Tyler Florence, via
Food Network)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pan drippings from roast prime rib of beef

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and milk until light and foamy. Stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Pour the drippings into a 9-inch pie pan, cast iron skillet, or square baking dish. Put the pan in oven and get the drippings smoking hot. Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour in the batter. Put the pan back in oven and cook until puffed and dry, 15 to 20 minutes.

In addition to the roast and the Yorkshire pudding, we had an amazing number of side dishes for people with very limited kitchen resources. First, I cooked some fresh green beans with bacon--simple, but always satisfying. Also, I roasted some sweet potato chunks with brown sugar and maple syrup. And then, not pictured on my plate above (because I hate them), were mashed rutabagas (which Cyd loves). Lastly, for dessert, I am covered with shame to admit that I BOUGHT something from the freezer section of the grocery store. Please don't judge me, as I couldn't even find the attachments to my mixer at that time! However, I must confess that the pie I bought was EXCELLENT! Mad props to Marie Callender for the thaw-and-serve Chocolate Satin Pie! It had an Oreo-type crust, a filling that's a hybrid between French silk and chocolate cream, and a Cool Whip-like topping with a few big chocolate shavings on top. For a cheater pie, it was darn good, and so help me, I'd buy one again in a pinch!

So that was our first Christmas feast in the new house. As for Christmas Day proper, we took the ferry over to Vermont to visit with my sweet cousin, Mandi, and her new bride, Ashley, and Ashley's lovely parents. As you may recall, they had their commitment ceremony at Epcot last June, but they came to Vermont to make it legal with a civil union. Of course, they also came for some snowy winter fun, and I thought it was precious that the young lovebirds invited Ashley's parents to join them on the trip.

In any case, we met for brunch at the Inn at Essex Junction, and it was just beautiful--both the venue and the buffet! Normally, there is a separate restaurant and a tavern, but they had it set up so that cold dishes were on the restaurant side, and hot dishes were in the tavern. I believe that the food is prepared by chefs-in-training at the New England Culinary Institute, so everything was tasty and tasteful. Here is a picture I snapped of some of the cold offerings, including dressed baby greens, a marinated bean salad, smoked salmon with capers and chopped egg and cornichons, an assortment of cold cuts and cheeses, a terrifically flaky croissant, and even two kinds of housemade charcuterie. Yum!

After we stuffed ourselves at the inn and had a nice visit with the cute couple and my cousin's in-laws, we decided to follow the time-honored tradition of the Christmas Day matinee...and it wasn't even my idea! (Ashley and her folks are my kind of people--frequent moviegoers, and teachers and dog lovers to boot!) We saw "Up in the Air," which was very good, though not what I expected. The trailers made it seem like a typical mainstream rom-com, but it was darker and quirkier. I liked it a lot, and it was the perfect jumpstart to my annual Winter Break Golden Globes Fest!

Though I know I'm ridiculously late in my well wishes, I hope you, too, had a joyful holiday celebrated in whatever manner you like best, surrounded with loving family and friends.

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