christmas recap

WHEW! christmas is over and we survived! there were many, many parties this time around. i was very lucky with my schedule to be able to attend almost all of them. there were some that had big, fancy catering spreads and others that featured more modest, homecooked meals, but they were all a great chance to meet and mingle with friends.

christmas itself was quite pleasant. tony and i spent a lot of it together, enjoying the tree and trading presents. this was a practical holiday, as far as the gift selections went. socks, pajamas, t-shirts, a frying pan, a clock radio….you get the idea. no big glamour gifts this year and that was just fine. i have already been blessed with a beautiful home, a loving partner, family living nearby, many good friends and my health. everything else seems like gravy after that.

on to the food…

i did quite a bit of cooking over the weekend. on saturday i roasted a little pork loin for the two of us. into the pan i threw a gala apple (peeled and sliced), an onion and some sage from the garden. when it was done i tossed all that into the blender with some veggie stock and the pan juices, which i had deglazed with some vermouth. it made a very nice little sauce. roasted yukon golds and a big salad rounded out the meal.

then on sunday, i really got into it. after breakfast, which included some of my panettone, my sister’s famous christmas coffeecake and a little pear ginger cake, we started in with the appetizers almost immediately. white stilton with apricots; tiny crabcakes with an indian relish; grape tomatoes wrapped in basil leaves; fresh figs stuffed with yogurt cheese and wrapped in bresaola; leek and scallion dip with salt and pepper potato chips; shrimp cocktail; a block of cream cheese smothered in hot pepper-peach jam and homemade chex mix with alphabet pretzels and almonds. we nibbled away at these things as my sister and i did the prep work on dinner.

then we moved on to grandma and opa’s house for the main meal. they had two friends come in from chicago, plus tony came, so there were eleven of us in total. for dinner itself, there were two beef tenderloins. i trimmed off the ends, butterflied them open and stuffed them with a little spinach farce encased in roasted red pepper. there were two sauces to accompany: red wine & wild mushroom and a horseradish cream. my mother made martha stewart’s macaroni and cheese. she also roasted some purple potatoes with rosemary, both of which were sent to her by a friend in california, from her garden. i made a huge salad with mache, arugula and baby romaine topped with pink grapefruit, red onion and pistachios. lastly, i whipped up some of james beard’s cream biscuits, which are ridiculously simple and just heavenly.

once we got everything prepped, i shooed everyone out of the kitchen and treated it like a catering gig. 11 people for dinner…how hard can that be? they kept coming in and trying to help and i kept sending them back to the bar. i worked on a vodka martini and got into the zone. 90 minutes after i turned the oven on, i called them in to the buffet. i surprised even myself that it all came off so smashingly. the meat was perfectly medium rare, the mac and cheese was bubbling hot and the platter of salad was a cool foil to the richness of the rest of the meal. almost everyone had seconds and seemed to enjoy it.

then came the desserts. my sister made her traditional , triple chocolate buche de noel, to which i annually contribute the meringue mushrooms. there was also a dundee cake (loaded with figs, dates, raisins, sultanas, cherries, cranberries, prunes, walnuts and homemade candied orange peel) i had made about a month ago and kept soaking in brandy. there were platters of candies and cookies: caramel and chocolate dipped pretzels, chocolate dipped candied grapefruit peel, peanut butter fudge, cranberry walnut fudge balls, peppermint fudge, rocky road candy, chocolate shortbread, sugar cookies, almond spice cookies, lime coconut cookies, chocolate almond biscotti, fig pistachio biscotti, checkerboards, nut bars, russian teacakes, supremes, linzer bars, and chocolate mint sticks. my mother served coffee in her art deco demitasse cups and we all groaned that we had eaten too much.

an extra super bonus was that my sister and the nieces did all the dishes! hooray for them! and thanks to everyone else for making this day as wonderful as it was.

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