I don't really mind. I like hosting holidays as long as I don't have 17 people over. I am into hospitality and cooking for people. If you believe in astrology, you could say it's a Cancerian thing. Cancers are homemakers who like to nurture.
The last time I hosted Christmas, I did a live blog, giving regular updates as the day went on, posting food as I cooked it. I thought it would be fun to do that again. All my friends can share the adventure with me.
So let's begin.
12/24/14 - Start with the most time-consuming stuff. It's Christmas Eve and I just finished making dessert. My dessert is my favorite non-chocolate cake recipe, Brown Butter Layer Cake. I thought it would be great with salted caramel frosting. At first I thought I might make my own recipe, but ended up going with Martha Stewart's version. I did add a teaspoon or two of salt to the caramel sauce. Who doesn't do that these days?
Here are the cakes cooling on the rack. (Yes I know my place is messy. I am still in the tidying process)
Think there is too much butter in the frosting?
The frosting was an Italian meringue buttercream (which seems a lot like a Swiss meringue buttercream to me) according to Martha Stewart. I had to warm egg whites and sugar over a double boiler and whip them really well. Gradually I added the butter. At first the butter just seemed to destroy the meringue and create a deflated greasy mess. Then after the last few additions of butter I had a creamy, fluffy frosting.
Christmas Eve dinner wasn't very festive. It was just Kevin and me having dinner. We ate some leftover Almost Perfect Chili (some variations on that recipe though). Maybe it wasn't festive, but at least it wasn't fish. There aren't too many advantages to being an adult, but one of them is that I can eat whatever I want (in other words not fish) on Christmas Eve.
Thursday 6:51 AM - I need to get started on stuff! I now have 10 hours until the guests arrive. Time to work on some actual food.
When I last did a live blog for Christmas dinner, I created the dinner over the space of three days. This year I had part of an afternoon and an evening and then just one full day to do dinner. This is a little scary.
Thursday 8:15 AM: I just made my green bean casserole. Before you shrink away in disgust and vow never to read TERP again, I will remind you that I don't use instant anything if I can avoid it. I made homemade green bean casserole.
I started by blanching a 2 pound bag of green beans. While I don't use instant and prepared foods, I do use shortcut foods. I don't want to be wasting time trimming green beans, so I bought a bag of pre-trimmed beans and cut them up.
Next I sauteed shallots and mushrooms and then cooked them in a basic white sauce with butter, flour, and milk. I also used pre-sliced mushrooms as a time saver.
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- Oil for frying
- 2 pounds trimmed green beans
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 1/4 (1/2 stick) cup butter
- 10 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 cups lukewarm milk
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- Dash of nutmeg
Drain excess milk from onions. Toss in flour mixture to coat. Fry in hot oil until crispy. I use a Fry Daddy for this purpose. Set aside and try not to eat them all.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut beans into smaller pieces and cook in boiling salted water about 2 minutes or until they are vibrantly green. Immediately plunge into an ice water bath. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a pan over low heat and cook shallots until they soften. Add butter and cook until melted. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown and give off their liquid. Add the flour and stir in vigorously. Constantly scrape up any flour sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until it doesn't smell like raw flour.
Leave an open space at the bottom of the pan and slowly whisk in the milk. As you begin whisking, slowly incorporate the other ingredients in the milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick. It should coat a spoon well enough that you can draw a line through it. Keep cooking until the whisk starts to make tracks at the bottom of the pan. This should take about 15 minutes. Stir in pepper, salt, and nutmeg.
Mix together beans and the sauce. Place in a casserole dish. Top with fried onions and bake for 25 minutes.
Just finished making the mashed potatoes.
Good stuff. The food mill tends to leave a lot of uniform lumpy bits, which I know some of my family doesn't like. The just leaves more for Kevin. He doesn't care.
I have so much cleanup to to before moving on to the next phrase of prep!
11:04 AM - Yikes! 6 hours to go. My next phase of cooking was the sauce making. I made two beautiful sauces for the meats.
First I made raspberry-maple mustard. This was simple to make.
3/4 cup grainy dijon mustard
1 10oz jar seedless, fruit-only raspberry preserves
1/4 cup real maple syrup.
Next up was a lemon-tarragon mayonnaise.
You see, my cake recipe had 2 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs in it. I was left with two whites.
The frosting recipe contained 9 egg whites. I only needed 7 in addition to the ones I had left over from the cake.
After making the frosting, I had 7 leftover egg yolks. What better thing to do with them than make them into a sauce?
- 7 egg yolks
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbl white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbl dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbl chopped fresh tarragon
- Optional dash of horseradish
Whisk in the mustard, vinegar, and salt. Continue whisking constantly and slowly stream in the olive oil. Pour in slowly and whisk quickly so the emulsion doesn't break. Whisk until the mixture becomes creamy and very thick. (If you're impatient and your arm gets tired, move it to the blender and blend of high a minute or so.) Stir in lemon zest, tarragon, and horseradish if using.
12:55 PM - Just finished setting the tables. What a mess! There is no fancypants eating in this house. The linens are wrinkled and mismatched. One of these place settings is not like the other 10. I have a mishmash of chairs.
But this is home and it's family. No one cares. We just all want to be together and we all want to eat.
Note I tried to be a little fancy and put all of those little votives down the middle of the main table.
One day I will have a house and I will have the storage for a full set of Christmas-themed linens and plates.
I do wish I had a tree though. I didn't get one this year. I didn't think with my post-surgical hip pain and the medial epicondylitis in my elbow that I would physically be able to take a tree home and decorate it. A tree does make the house seem that much more festive.
What happened to my live blog? Well, the home computer was hijacked for the afternoon unfortunately. Poor SPP just needed a bit of refuge with me bustling around the house all day getting things ready. It was no longer so easy for me to jump on the computer every time I cooked something.
So what did I do since the last check in with the blog?
I cooked a beautiful beef roast. It was a grass-fed ribeye roast. I cut slits in the meat and stuffed cloves of garlic into them. Then I rubbed the outside with olive oil and thyme and plenty of salt and pepper. It went into the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then roasted another 2 hours at 325.
I also cooked a small turkey breast for the non beef eaters. (I feel I should make some kind of joke here about gin or the Tower of London, but I can't think of one funny enough.) I rubbed it with rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper and poured a little white wine in the bottom of the pan. I cooked it alongside the beef for two hours.
I made the specialty cocktail of the evening. Instead of eggnog I served hot cider infused with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and allspice. Then I added lots of brandy.
I started the evening with a cheese plate. I had a mix of cheese types and textures. There was brie, peppered goat cheese, gouda, and manchego.
Finally, the dinner buffet. We had the beef, the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the green beans, the sauces, and some cranberry coleslaw that my mother provided.
Hope everyone had a great Christmas and enjoys a happy new year!