Gingerbread houses, figgy pudding, mincemeat pie! GOD, WHEN WILL IT END?!?!?!
Oh. It just did.
I'm kidding, people. I love this time of year, kind of. No, let me be more specific. I love the seasonal uniqueness of certain food items and rituals. I don't like the time compression. When I am Mistress of All Time and Space (I'll be getting my merit badge in that soon) I'll be stretching out this season so we all have a little more time to b r e a t h e.
So last week was my big hors d'oeurvres week (you know, after typing that word fifty times in the last week I can finally spell it without looking it up).
This week was Feed The Hungry Crowd with a Seasonally Appropriate Yet Dietarily Sensitive Menu Week.
In the Feed the Hungry Crowd Dept, I served up (among other things):
Garlic- and Soy-Marinated Pork Roast with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy and
Pineapple Upsidedown Cake.
In the Whee! It's Christmas!! Dept, I served:
Mincemeat Pie and reprised:
Savory Pureed Limas
Figgy Pudding with Rum Butter
I can see that I've been a bad Christmas Elf and have not even mentioned those last two here before EVER even though I've made the Limas about a million and one times and I made the Figgy Pudding for Christmas last year, slyly replacing the traditional Plum Pudding.
So I will discuss them all, complete with more brazenly stolen photos. Again, please please do not sue me. All I can give you if you sue me is a sink full of dirty dishes and you're welcome to those, buddy.
Garlic and Soy Marinated Pork Roast is one of those dishes that is kind to the harried cook, which is to say you throw a big hunk of meat into a bag or a bowl with a marinade, let it soak overnight, then roast it in the oven until it's done. I LOVE these kinds of recipes.
How was it? What do you think? If you like roasted flavorful meat, this should be right up your alley.
I deviated from the Pineapple Upside-down Cake a teeny little bit because I did not, as the recipe directs, make individual cakes in muffin tins. I doubled the recipe and made a big gigantic cake in the traditional format, which is to say rectangular. Maybe the traditional format is square, or maybe it's round, WHO CARES? Anyway my point is I don't get too fussy when there are drooling, slavering people clutching my ankles asking for food.
You know, it's harder than you would think to find a photo of a rectangular or even square pineapple upsidedown cake that doesn't have cherries (which mine didn't)--OK, here's one that has cornmeal which mine didn't but who cares at least it doesn't have those nasty cherries:
This cake was scarfed down in record time. I had to pull my hand back quick.
I've had my eye on the Mincemeat Pie recipe from the beginning. For some mysterious reason, I'm intrigued by beef suet, which this recipe insists adds an "earthy" flavor that one would miss were it not present. Now, every mincemeat pie I've ever tasted (maybe two) had a filling that was horrifyingly sweet and gloppy--some kind of raisin-y brown stuff. Like this:
Would this recipe produce something similar? Was beef suet all we were missing to transform this into something worth eating? Inquiring minds want to know, and nothing like Christmas dinner for a little culinary experiment.
Oh and by the way, are you noticing this? How I blithely just cook things I've never ever cooked before by way of experimentation, on the most important (and largest) family holiday dinner of the year?
That's because The Gourmet Cookbook kicks ass. Yay Gourmet Cookbook!
This is a lattice top pie (I love doing lattice top pies--it makes me feel like a competent baker) and the pie crust is straightforward from the back of the book (though I modify it when I'm making sweet pies by adding about 3 tbsp of sugar). The filling is apples diced fine, currants, golden and dark raisins, lemon and orange zest, spices, suet, and my favorite, brandy.
Oh, one thing I didn't do. I didn't let this stuff sit for three days like the recipe asks. I was like oh, I think I'll make the mincemeat pie today, and la la la, reading the recipe and WHAT? THREE DAYS TO SOAK THE FILLING???????
Well since the next day was Christmas, BLEEP THAT but I did let it soak for 24 hours as a concession to the fact that somebody may know something I don't know (imagine that) and contented myself with feeling productive about making the pie dough.
OK, and now I can't find a picture of a pie as beautiful as mine was but this one comes close:
And the filling looked liked this:
OK, see how the little pieces of apple and raisins are kind of loose, discreet units? That's what the filling is like in this recipe. Although it must be acknowledged that if I had waited two more days it might have stuck together better (ahem).
And does the beef suet give it an earthy flavor that I'll miss should I ever make it without it? Well, quite frankly I couldn't detect any beefiness, or suet-y-ness, so when it comes right down to it what the suet is adding is fat, and I'll take butter any day in the fat department.
So vegetarians, I think it's safe to say you can make this without the beef suet and you won't ruin it. And I'm sorry I didn't tell all the vegetarians at the dinner that there was beef suet in this pie--I forgot to mention it in all the excitement.
I can't believe I've never mentioned Savory Pureed Limas before because I've made them, like, fifty times. If you don't like limas beans I'll bet you ten dollars you'll like these.
Why? Because I think people who don't like lima beans (ok, I'm one of them) don't like them because of the texture. Who could argue with the taste? It's not really assertive, it's just kind of bland and bean-y. But limas have this gross kind of skin that just bugs me.
So here's what you do. Cook the limas in boiling salted water until they are super soft. Then put them in a food processor, add butter, milk, a little sauteed garlic, nutmeg and pepper, and turn it on. Then WALK AWAY.
The trick to this is letting the machine process away all that yucky skin. Easier when you use baby limas, but it takes a little longer if you use the big ones. Just go empty the dishwasher or something--you can't ruin them now.
What you get is a puree of the most beautiful green...this photo gets the color right but not quite the texture:
Feed this to your kids. Feed it to old people (they'll love it). Feed it to your nutritionally deprived self. I'm serious--it's a crowd pleaser. Limas--who'd a guessed?
As I mentioned way up yonder, I served the Figgy Pudding for two years in a row which is why I had the beef suet in the house. Our big triumph with the figgy pudding was not so much the pudding, frankly, but the fact that we got some seriously flammable rum to set it on fire.
I'm such a chicken about fire that I make one of the grandsons (age 15) carry out the flaming platter. Is that child abuse? He does like to live dangerously.
Anyway, this is the big finale of the meal--the cake gets heated, put on a metal platter with little valleys to hold the flaming rum, and it gets a little sprig of holly on top. Then the whole family sings "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with special emphasis on "now bring us some figgy pudding" while somebody (not me) carries the fireball through the darkened dining room.
This is the idea:
Just add fire.
This cake, I can take it or leave it, mostly because steaming pudding is a big, fat pain in the ass. Why? Because if you don't have the lid on really tight, water gets inside, which is what happened to me last year--it was a miracle the cake actually tasted good. This year I tied up the mold with kitchen string--it looked like I was ready to fed-ex it somewhere.
And then, to re-heat it, you know what you're supposed to do? Re-steam it for another couple of hours! Forget that, sister. I use the microwave.
You may ask why I even make it in advance--because you can. And because being the crazy little control freak I am, I want to make sure it actually comes out of the mold in one piece so I can rest easy and not be up in the middle of night before Christmas worrying about the figgy pudding.
So PHEW!!! Another big Christmas dinner come and gone.
Oh and by the way, here's why I lovelovelove the home health aides who work in the house. They do the dishes.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."
--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008