Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lamb Hash

Friday December 26
Today just felt like Sunday, rather than Boxing Day.  After yesterday's fress, we wanted to lighten up a bit, so we threw together a lamb hash with the leftovers from a week ago: onions, turnips, potatoes, and the gristlier bits of meat, each whizzed up in the robot-coupe, as here.  Again, the spice came from a little of our own grain mustard, but the herb was parsley instead of thyme. 

An optional, but traditional, adornment is sauce tomate américaine, i.e. ketchup.

Unsmoked Duck Breasts with Turnip Gratin

Thursday December 25
We've been telling everyone that if the weather allowed, we were going to smoke a duck for Christmas.  Today we walked out to the garage to set up the smoker, and found that we had herb twigs, wood chips, and everything - except charcoal.  So rather than drive out to yet another grocery store (enough of that yesterday), we decided to go another way.  
Holt broke down the duck, with the breasts curing in salt, thyme, and allspice for tonight, the legs and trimmings for crispy parcels tomorrow, the spare skin for grievenes, and all the rest for the stockpot.

Our side dish was a good counterpoint to rich, oily duck: rich, creamy turnip gratin.  We tweaked the original recipe a bit.  We used under 2 pounds of white turnips from the last farmer's market, nutmeg instead of cayenne, and did its first stage of cooking in the oven for 10 minutes UNcovered (contrary to the original recipe), using duckfat instead of butter, which gave it lovely crispy edges as well as browning the bottom.
As for the duck breasts, once the turnip gratin was resting, we seared them in duckfat and butter for 2 mins. per side, then added a little duck broth and cooked under cover until they came to 135º in center.  They rested a bit while we added chopped green peppercorns in brine and dried pink peppercorns to the juices in the pan, for that Christmassy feel.  Deglazed with a touch of white wine, and poured the sauce over the meat. 

Served with cranberry chutney, it was so seasonal, you could plotz.

Crab Latkes, I mean Cakes

Wednesday 24 December
We know that it's not Chanukah any more, and crab is trafe.  But tonight is la Vigilia, which in Italian America is usually the Feast of Seven Fishes.  Karen recently reminded Barbara that the only fish dish Ralph always made on Christmas Eve was lobster salad.  So in his honor, tonight we celebrated the Feast of One Fish, and that one was a crustacean. 

We got home early, so Holt had the chance to make his famous crabcake recipe in advance (stinting on the mayonnaise but adding a little pickled red pepper, as well as celery and scallion) and let the breaded cakes sit in the fridge for about an hour before frying.  And you know, they did seem to hold together better during the frying process.
They were amazingly and deliciously served with a salad of tiny reseeded lettuces and arugula that Barbara gathered tonight out of the wintry garden, dressed simply with basil oil and lime juice.
Our sole, belated dessert was the eggnog that Barbara had pursued all over town, finally acquired at the local UDF (and adorned with a shot of rum and dusting of nutmeg), polished off while watching the broadcast of midnight mass from St. Peter's in bed, which is what non-Catholics do on Christmas Eve.  
So far as we know, struffoli are impossible to obtain in Cincinnati; and probably they've been replaced by artisanal gluten-free miniature cronuts in Brooklyn.  But luckily, Karen can still get them at her Shop-Rite in New Jersey, so another Vigilia tradition survives.

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

Tuesday 23 December
For the last night of Chanukah, we made these sweet potato latkes, adding a little touch of crystallized ginger to the mix.

We didn't have time to drain the yogurt, but just spooned it out of the container, and topped it with lox for that extra special touch.  
Problem was, the result was even sweeter than sweet potatoes should be.  We were vowing to cut out even the measly two teaspoons of sugar from the recipe when we took a closer look at the yogurt container and realized that it was vanilla rather than plain.  
Blame it on Kroger; the two containers look almost the same.  So it was not our best performance, but the latkes were blameless, and tasted fine without yogurt.

Lamby Leftovers

Monday 22 December
Yes, just slices of Thursday's roast lamb, served with sautéed zucchini finished with garlic oil (thanks, Becky!), and served with relish (i.e., Barbara's cranberry chutney).

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lovely Leftovers

Sunday 21 December
The above is the title of our projected cookbook, and one of our specialties. 

So dinner was a salmagundi of crab salad, odds and ends of salmon, and various appetizers left over from yesterday.

A Fine Fishy Fest

Saturday December 20
It's fun to have guests over in this festive season, especially as we have more time to prep and fuss over the food when classes are out.  So we asked Rama, Erik, Shari, and Jack over to share our mid-Chanukah, pre-Christmas celebration.  
Our hors d'oeuvres table included black and green olives, jalapeño salad, hummus with David's zaatar and fresh oregano leaves from the garden, Barbara's pickled daikon, carrot, and apple-tizer, and her goat cheese spread whipped up with garden arugula and chervil, plus brie and other cheeses to go with crackers.

For our main course, Holt took two mighty fillets of salmon, sliced them into six portions, sprinkled each with lemon thyme leaves and sorrel from the garden, and with his pastry bag, surrounded them with a crust of pommes duchesse - a recipe that is in Old but not New Joy - and baked them into beautiful presentation pieces.  What's more using just the eggyolks to make the potatoes leaves us more whites for Holt's granola.
The salad course to follow that up was baby spinach, a little garden arugula, four avocados, and crabmeat, in a dressing of red grapefruit sections, shallots, oil and white balsamic.  Very refreshing.

For dessert, Holt prepared classic Florentine cookies, again only seen in Old Joy, so dependably retro - in memory of our friend Bob, for whose birthday parties, on Dec. 17, we used to make them.  There was Graeter's coconut chip and eggnog ice creams to go with the cookies, and you can't get more festive than that.