Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holiday food pics

I suppose there are some people out there who would like to see our Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners, so without further ado:

Christmas Eve must be Swedish food, kind of like my MorMor (mother's mother aka grandma) used to make.  We start out with herring, cheese, smoked salmon, and crispbread.  The main course is ham,

Swedish meatballs, Jansson's temptation (a potato, cream, and onion gratin with...shhhh...anchovies),

Homemade Limpa, which is a rye bread with molasses, caraway, orange zest, and anise seed, 

And braised sweet and sour kale.  Dessert is cookies and rice pudding- oops, no pic.

On to Christmas Day:  a few simple seafood hors d'Oeuvres:

This is terrible but there was a third appetizer, a puff pastry palmier filled with fig jam and prosciutto.  They were on the baking sheet to cool down enough to plate them- that fig jam is like molten lava out of the oven- and people just started eating them right off the pan.  Whatever- one less dish to wash
Our first seated course was parsnip and leek puree garnished with a drizzle of heavy cream, chives, and chopped smoked almonds for a little textural pop as well as an interesting additional flavor.  It was quite good and light enough not to cloy the palate.

For the main course, I bought some big-ass pork shoulder roasts, seasoned them up really well the night before with salt, pepper, and Penzey's Bavarian Blend, and then seared them off and roasted the heck out of them.  I believe they were in the oven for about 5 hours at 325'  The awesome thing about pork shoulder for a party, is, well, number one it is super cheap, especially compared to prime rib or goose.  Two, is it simply cannot be overcooked.  These are the cuts they use in real BBQ where the things smoke for upwards of 24 hours.  You can under cook it, but not if you're paying attention!  Third, it's a breeze to slice and serve.  No elaborate and messy carving ritual.  Four, these days pork is so lean, people are really surprised and pleased at the fatty succulence and fall-apart tenderness of the shoulder.  Five (!) leftovers are versatile.  Great for Cuban or shredded bbq sandwiches.

The pork was served with a luscious gravy, spaetzle, braised red cabbage with bacon and nice warm spices, and simple steamed haricots vert and julienned carrots.

To end on a lighter note, a cranberry orange Bavarian.  That's a jellyroll filled with homemade cranberry jam around and over an orange cream filling, with Grand Marnier and juicy orange segments.  This is kind of an old fashioned dessert- it has gelatin in it (not jello- eeeew)-  but I was happy with it because it not only can, it has to be made the day ahead, and it's a refreshing conclusion to a heavy meal, with seasonal flavors.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A handful of cookies...

The traditional Gingerbread house- this year my 5 year old did the decorating all by herself!  It's hard to see but there's a Christmas tree inside.

I honestly didn't go overboard on the cookies this year.  Kind of sad to skip tradition.  Here's peanut brittle, lemon squares (Mom's recipe), and Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Walnut Chews...a base of oatmeal cookie dough strewn with walnuts and dark chocolate, then blanketed with caramel and melded in the oven to something greater than the sum of its parts.

Close up on the chews...these are good keepers, too.  Good for about 2 weeks.

The brittle.  

Well, guess I didn't get a pic of the decorated cutouts-- but if you ever need a third hand to fill a piping bag with icing, use this trick (it's in a pint glass, before the end is snipped off).

One of my personal favorites are Vanilla Buttercreams.  It's a melt in your mouth (but crisp to the bite) vanilla scented shortbread round, sandwiched with luxurious vanilla scented butter cream filling- kissed with rum.

The dough is:  process, roll, chill, slice, and bake.  Easy peasy!  They don't look like much, but if you like sticking your finger in the bowl after creaming the butter, sugar, and vanilla...these are for you.

The Family Tradition:  Mormor's Swedish Pepperkakor.  They are subtle but everyone loves them.  They have to be thin.  So thin that you seem to have as much dough left after cutting the cookies as before rolling it out.

Baked, with minimal adornment.

They are molasses spice cookies.  So crispy and tender you just shatter them on the roof of your mouth with your tongue.  Goes great with coffee, tea, milk, red wine...  They are the cookie that eats like a chip.

My Aunt Carol gets them even thinner.  Don't ask me how!

Perfect cookie baking weather, eh?