08 January 2017

Seriously Special Eats

For ages, my mom hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas Day at my parents house-- and served exactly the same meal, right down to the appetizers and sides, for both. While other people were having ham or roast beef or even lasagna on Christmas Day, our family has TURKEY.

One year, I saw a Christmas Carol and the scene where Bob Crachit receives a turkey (which I mistakenly thought was a goose!) from the newly magnanimous Scrooge really stuck with me. So for Christmas Eve this year, the Sailor prepared a Christmas goose with all the trimmings and some!

He always puts his heart and soul into cooking a special Christmas Eve dinner, and it was even more of an effort for him this year since he was sick with a terrible cold the weeks leading up to the day.

Note that he actually used the ugly sweater coozie that I put in the Advent calendar

He didn't deviate from his normal planning routine and pored over cookbooks for hours, visited all of the local grocers for the best ingredients, and spent ALL of Christmas Eve Day scurrying around the kitchen like an elf in Santa's workshop.

Many cultures recognize preparing and sharing food as an act of love, and cooking for others is the Sailor's way of showing love. I so admire his patience, dedication and skill. It's especially inspiring since, although I am a better cook than I used to be, I'm still a total disaster in the kitchen! I have a few simple recipes for dinners and a bunch of baking recipes that I make regularly, but I really have no talent for it!

Here's what was on the menu Christmas Eve:

Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
Warm Blue Cheese and Bacon Dip
Cheese and Charcuterie Tray

Clementine, Burrata & Prosciutto Winter Salad

Christmas Goose and Gravy
Prune and Apple Stuffing with Sausage and Chestnuts
Cranberry clementine sauce
Kale Gratin
Rosemary Popovers

Bread Pudding with Amaretto Butter Cream Sauce
Gingerbread Ice Cream

We started the meal with a dozen oysters in mignonette sauce made with 1/4 c red wine vinegar, 1 T shallot and 1/4 c black pepper, cooked on the Big Green Egg.  That was last year's big Christmas gift from the Sailor's mom and her hubby, and it has been nothing short of awesome. Who would have thought I'd ever be so excited about a smoker??? The Sailor has cooked everything from pizza to venison to perfection on it at least once a week for the past year.

That's where we stopped eating anything even 'sort-of healthy' that evening! Talk about indulging-- this menu is a cardiologist's nightmare (Ironically, the Sailor's dad, who's a cardiologist, joined us for Christmas eve AND enjoyed everything!) Along with the oysters, we served Warm Blue Cheese and Bacon Dip. The cheese dip recipe came from the Sailor's family recipe book, and it was so good that we made it again to bring to a New Year's Eve party. (Definitely time for a healthy habits resolution around here!) Best part- it couldn't be more simple to put together!

Warm Bacon and Blue Cheese Dip
7 slices bacon
2 garlic cloves
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 c half and half
4 oz blue cheese
2 T chopped chives
2 T chopped smoked almonds

Cook bacon. Drain fat. Add garlic. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream blue cheese and half & half. Stir in crumbled bacon, blue cheese and chives. Transfer to three inch round baking dish. Bake about 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with chopped, smoked almonds. Serve with crackers or crusty bread. 

Clementine, Burrata & Prosciutto Winter Salad- Citrus is everywhere this winter! This salad is bursting with flavor and color. I could eat this zingy combo every day. It was a favorite on the menu at Jaime Oliver's Fifteen in London and is sure to become a special occasion favorite around here.

Christmas Goose and Gravy- The Sailor finds a lot of his recipes on Serious Eats.  If I asked, he probably would confirm that it's his favorite cooking blog, maybe even his favorite blog. Not sure though. I know he reads a lot of the mountain-man, outdoorsy, survival-skill blogs too (thank goodness because I'd be useless if we ever got stuck out in the woods during one of our hikes or snowshoe excursions!)

Not surprisingly, the Sailor said that the most challenging part of the goose was getting out enough fat that it wasn't greasy. And boy was there fat!!! I saw measuring cups and bowls and mason jars ("liquid gold") filled with the fat drippings as he was preparing the goose. I purposely stopped reading the recipe where the blogger talked about removing the remaining quills from the goose. Ick-Don't need to know about that!

The goose was the only part of the dinner that we photographed. Everything was plated so beautifully and looked like it was ready for a cookbook magazine photoshoot. Have to remember to snap some pics next year.

He also made the prune and apple stuffing with sausage and chestnuts to go along with the bird. We have enough leftover in the freezer to feed a small army!

Cranberry clementine sauce
- The cranberry sauce is a must have to accompany the goose. The tartness of the berries cuts the richness of the goose. This easy cranberry sauce recipe from Anne Burrell has been a holiday staple in our house for a few years now.

Kale Gratin- We had this dish last year with Christmas Eve dinner, and it's an absolute winner. It comes from one of our favorite cookbooks, A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Erickson. I posted the Boat Street Scones recipe with blackberry jam here.

I admit that- as many times I've tried it, and as many ways as it's been prepared- I am no fan of kale. BUT mix it with three cups of heavy cream and half a pound of cheese-- heck yeah! Make no mistake, this is a rich special occasion dish, and it's worth every mile you might have to run to make up for it.

Rosemary Popovers- A couple of years ago on Christmas Eve, the Sailor made popovers from the River Cafe Cookbook, but these were definitely better. He just added rosemary to this popover recipe from Serious Eats, and the herbs were a great addition. I really wish that we had a photo of the ones that the Sailor cooked. They were golden brown and fluffy and tasted twice as good as they looked!

Bread Pudding with Amaretto Butter Cream Sauce- Another winner from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus! If Renee Ericsson's Boat Street Cafe hadn't closed, I would make a trip to Seattle simply to experience her culinary genius.

Ohmygawd. I'm a chocolate lover and rarely if ever order a dessert that is anything but chocolate. This bread pudding however...has changed my life! Or just my idea of the perfect dessert. While the Bomboloncini from Ventuno in Nantucket is probably the best chocolate dessert I've ever had, this bread pudding rivals it for top desserts. ever. With heavy cream, sugar, bread and booze, you can't go wrong!

Gingerbread Ice Cream- Spicy and smooth, this gingerbread ice cream complimented the bread pudding and is so "Christmas-y"! The recipe made quite a bit, especially since we each just had a small scoop on the side of the bread pudding. We ate some of the leftovers with Snickerdoodle cookies at a meal with company the following weekend and there was still almost a pint left!

And now it's back to the humdrum of every day living. Post-Christmas is always such a letdown! We're focused on goals in January 2017-- Along with the rest of America, one of ours is starting healthy habits for the Sailor and back to (mostly!) healthy living for me. So far, so good.

Without a doubt, there are good things to come out of our commitment. I'll have some healthy recipes and a fitness/workout update to share with you soon! Best wishes for a happy (healthy) 2017!

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