Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Xmas Dinner, Take 1

Despite the years of hebrew school and zionist summer camp, there once was a time when our family celebrated Christmas. In grandma and grandpa's brick house on the corner lot. With a tree and lights and seasonally colored Hershey's Kisses in glass container's and carolers outside and chocolate mousse pie and aunts and an uncle and cousins. While my dates may be spotty, I think we did this yearly until a year or two after my grandfather died. We have pictures to prove it including one I wish I had to share of me in a pink cashmere sweater, pink and grey tartan skirt, with a pink wand - I was 6ish. Yes, our family also brought a menorah when the holidays overlapped and we were certainly not chomping down on bacon in the morning, but there was Christmas and I liked it.

Then there were the non-Christmas years. The stay in New York and see a movie on Christmas day years.

Then there were the in-law years. I went to church. Two years ago I fell asleep in church. After that I chose not to go to church (jewish folks: church is a lot like synagogue except in English and there's slightly less getting up and sitting back down).

But Christmas never recaptured those early years for me. Perhaps it's that devoted partner's family wasn't my family. And there are no small children which, though I despair of spending time with them in general, do add to the Christmaseyness of Christmas.

So this year, now that our families are soon to be joined officially, I requested that we host the Christmas meal. And by requested, I think I said something like, "that's it - I want US to do Christmas this year." But, you know, nicely. Not like some crazed shrew harpy. Honest.

And that brought me to the next obvious question: what to cook? But not really. I've known what I want to cook for Christmas dinner since 2005 when, in the john at Ed's house I paged through the December issue of Food and Wine magazine. There it was: the perfect Christmas dinner. My mouth watered reading about it. So when we started planning, the Food and Wine website was the first stop. Here, in fact. Do you not want to start eating this immediately?!?

I cut back on some of the three million dishes both for expediency and the simple fact that our Christmas dinner will be serving 8 (9? Stupid Kate), not 20. Also, my dad won't be eating a lot of this because of his dietary restrictions. I've ordered my roast and I know it will not be cheap, so we didn't want to leave its preparation to chance. Also, while I'm confident I can whip sweet potatoes on the fly, I was less confident with creamed carrots. So last night I made a single rib and some creamed vegetables. And I'm so glad I did.

My meat was delicious but decidedly medium - and we're a rare to medium rare kind of group. So now I can adjust cooking times. The vegetables were good, but our tastes run to the more intense, so I'll be adding more ginger and more horseradish and, in a nod to having something without heavy cream, I think we're going to saute the mushrooms in sherry vinegar instead. It was also useful from a timing perspective. Anyone who was at our inaugural Passover dinner may remember that we ate in the round because the meat took way longer than expected and I spent most of the meal in the kitchen with The Boy finishing the lamb on the stovetop. Now I know what can be made ahead of time (all initial vegetable cooking for example - if they get finished with the cream sauce, they will heat up again, and that cream sauce need not be made a la minute). And I just bought a chafing dish which will help immensely since I despise serving lukewarm food.

I'll give credit where credit is due, though, and the credit belongs to devoted partner. I absolutely tend to wing it on cooking, figuring stuff will be good enough, and it drives devoted partner crazy because sometimes I fail. Mightily. And while for some dinners, I think the pre-cooking is unnecessary, for this, our first Christmas meal, it made a lot of sense and I think it will prevent me from overcooking 200 dollars worth of cow.

Now if only he'd tell me what time his family is showing up, we'd be golden!

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