Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Part 1 - Christmas Eve at Mom's

Imagine "It's A Wonderful Life" in reverse. See how good the world would be if I had never been born. You see, if it weren't for me, my familiy could celebrate The Feast of the 7 Fishes, without any complaints or need for exceptions. Instead, we are forced to break tradition all because of me - the only picky eater in the family.

My mother hosted a Christmas Eve dinner this year as my brother promised Christmas Day to his sister-in-law and I promised it to Dad. The party may not have been traditional Italian Christmas Eve foods, but it was certainly a big Italian type of celebration with 15 people in attendance and an abudance of good stuff. In fact, when she asked me what I thought she should serve, I suggested some Italian-American classics that I knew would be crowd pleasers (I realized my request for duck wouldn't cut it). She liked my ideas so much she used them.

We started with an antipasto tray, a shrimp ring, and veggies with Ina Garten's caramlelized onion dip (one of the most addictive dips ever).

Dinner was baked ziti, sausage and peppers, beef tenderloin, and The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. (Mom just can't stay away from that recipe. She loves it.) The first two items were my idea. The tenderloin was something my mother decided to add in there knowing how many people enjoy it. I'd say it came from left field because my mother is loath to eat beef tenderloin unless it's way overcooked. (My father tells me she used to love her meat bloody rare until she became pregnant with my brother.)

A very yummy plateful. Mom did a fantastic job.

I provided dinner rolls. I used the Noble Pig Dinner Rolls For a Crowd recipe. These suckers are majorly addictive. Good thing the recipe makes so many because we were all just snarfing these like popcorn. Thanks for the recipe, Cathy!

Then we had dessert. Ah dessert. Few desserts are more perfect than my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. There are many delicious Choco-PB cakes out there, but this one tops them all. It's like a giant Reese's cup. It comes from Elaine Corn's brilliant book, Gooey Desserts, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I'm not sure if the book is still in print, so I'll be kind to you (if not to the author) and provide the recipe.

There were also Mom's famous Meltaway cookies (also called Russian Tea Cakes, Moon Cookies, and Mexican Wedding Cookies) and she also made Ina Garten's "Fruitcake Cookies".

Even Mom's cat Tippy wanted a piece of the action.

My fridge is full of leftovers. Life is good.

Now for the promised recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Crust
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
4 Tbl melted butter

For PB Layer
10 graham crackers
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted, soft butter
2 cups crunchy peanut butter

For Chocolate Layer
11 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into small bits
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of a springform pan with cooking spray. Mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a springform pan and bake 6 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator.

Make the peanut butter layer. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until just mixed. Spread over the crust. Chill (the cake, not you, but you can chill if you want to).

Now start on the chocolate layer. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Place the egg yolks in a double boiler. I give them a little beating. Bring the cream to a boil and slowly add it to the yolks. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Pour chocolate over peanut butter layer and chill several hours or overnight until the cake is nice and firm.


Sue said...

What a great collection of useful recipes in one post! Thank you. Everything sounds wonderful.

The kids STILL aren't up. I guess I'll cook some cranberries...

Have the greatest Christmas! I hope you get a lot of relaxing and overindulging in.

Donna-FFW said...

Such delicious eats. Hope you had a very Happy Holiday!

The Blonde Duck said...

It sounds like a feast! And those PB cakes and melting cookies...YUM!!! We had beef tenderlion up here in Shreveport on Christmas Eve too--Ben loves it and calls it soft meat!

Peter M said...

Again, Merry Christmas.I want that rare roast fave!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Christmas eve dinner is my favourite part of the holidays! You really had a great meal :)

amandalouden said...

Looks great. My American Aunt married an Italian. Having recently moved back here from Italy, they were eager to host an Italian Christmas. It was heavy on the pasta dishes complimented by sausages and other traditional Italian foods, and absolutely de-lish. Your baked ziti reminded me-looks great and love the family photos.

The Blonde Duck said...

I hope you have a good new years!