We have a number of friends who love to eat, and a handful who love to cook. Of the latter, while they are all great, there are one or two who really stand out. One is our friend Michael Granne. We know Mike through his amazing wife Rebecca and as soon as we met, we all started eating. Mike is a lawyer by day (need a lawyer? click HERE to see Mike’s bio) and a phenomenal cook by night (really, the rest of the time). He is a multi-course, challenge your senses, artful-plating kind of cook. Yes, the chef-y kind. But he does all of this at home. He will tell you that much of his craft he learned from his father (best potato leek soup maker ever) and I will tell you that his artfulness and creativity in cooking also comes from his late mother, Regina Granne. We had the pleasure of meeting Regina on several occasions. Her artwork speaks for itself (I really like the Liberty paintings – please click here and peruse) and lives on in her son’s cooking. Finally, Mike and Rebecca have two boys, twins, who are forces of nature in and of themselves. Zachary happens to also share in his family’s artistic ways and he drew a wonderful picture of his dad’s Christmas Even menu. While this is a traditional feast of the seven fishes, I don’t know why this menu couldn’t also be enjoyed throughout the year. I’ve included a number of pictures (that I stole from Mike’s Facebook page :-)) of the dishes themselves – please enjoy and be as inspired as I am by this wonderful home chef. You can see how artistry, care and craft are passed down from generation to generation.
The big day is almost here! (still totally behind with the shopping; annual cards haven’t gone out…) but don’t panic – the menu is done!
I have the best memories of my mother’s Christmas dinner. She was a goose lady, and it was delicious, gamey and not tough. She also went whole Anglo and made English Plum Puddings with hard sauce of butter/sugar/brandy…just what a kid needs.
I am doing none of the above. Some things are meant to be memories. This year we are keeping things relatively simple but you know, awesome. We will be enjoying champagne kept cold with frozen cranberry skewers. There will be salmon dip on rye. On Christmas Eve we will prep a pork shoulder with porchetta flavors and roast it Christmas morning (everyone deserves pork fat cracklings on Christmas). The pork requires fennel fronds, so let’s use the rest of the fennel in our potato gratin and bask in potato cream and gruyere glory. Because I live in Brooklyn and fall victim to stereotypes, we are serving a kale salad with crisp lemon dressing – there’s a twist – it has brussel sprout leaves too! And last but not least, chocolate mousse. I’ve recommended this mousse before and just love it. It’s not too heavy but it’s so decadent. And it’s made in advance so there’s no whipping drama.
Merry Christmas to all!
Tips and Notes
Please click SaveGourmet Christmas 2015 Game Plan for my plan – shopping list, recommended timeline, recipes. I also included Chicken Liver Mousse (two mousse Christmas!) because I love it and might be motivated enough to make another app. Any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
So Thanksgiving happened and you ate ALL the pie. Not a crumb left in sight. There were also midnight drumsticks dipped in gravy and fried stuffing patties topped with cranberry sauce (creative, yes?). You drank nothing that wasn’t caffeinated or alcoholic. Elastic waistbands were required.
Friends, the holidays are long. Let’s maintain a little self-control and not totally crap the Healthy Bed (Crass. Don’t care). I overindulged last year and my memory of that Christmas is more about feeling huge than enjoying myself. You may not need rules. I do. Here are mine.
Alternate all alcoholic beverages with water. Lots of water all day.
Start the day with a protein and vegetable breakfast.
Snack on whatever you want as long as you eat something healthy beforehand. Want a cookie? Great. Have a few slices of raw chopped peppers first.
No food magazines after 9PM. This is a year round rule – late night perusing makes me hungry. Big holiday meals and leftovers don’t need any help from cravings I can avoid by say, reading a book instead of looking at food on Pinterest.
Move around. Keep up your exercise routine.
The theme => No deprivation. All excess in moderation.
Set yourself up right with a meal that isn’t 6,000 calories. A few days of virtue is a healthy way to appreciate the cookies, the butter, the creamed spinach…remember, it’s barely even December and the parties are just starting. Try this delicious and easy fish dish. Over spinach and a little rice, you will be satisfied. There should be dessert. I listed broiled grapefruit (which sounds really fun) but this would also be a great time to have banana ice cream – link below – which is delicious and best eaten the day you make it.
Let’s treat this holiday season like the marathon it should be.
Before the family arrives…before the eggnog hangover…before your house is covered in turkey and tinsel, might I suggest reconnecting with your spouse over a nice dinner for two. It’s the only responsible thing to do. You owe it to yourself as a couple. After all, you might be in the same space through the holidays but face it, you’ll hardly talk other than the occasional “Please cut Uncle Joe off and take his keys.”
But the holiday list is long and daunting (and yet “Quiet Dinner for Two” never seems to make the list). So to make this happen, you’ve got to keep it simple. Simple, but delicious. We start with oysters. A pain in the ass for ten (all that shucking); a treat for just two. Then a really tasty cod dish which marries so well with chorizo. It’s hearty over beans, and in advance of 5,000 calorie a day eating, a relatively virtuous treat. To end, let’s head to Italy and enjoy a quick and delicious dessert….espresso over ice cream. It’s so good and so easy, and let’s face it, you need all the caffeine you can get. Pick a night between now and just after Thanksgiving. You and your partner deserve it.
Evenings are hectic. We start with the best of intentions, but then the kids are tired, everyone’s starving, the milk spills. It’s a weeknight.
Do not be discouraged. Even with a messy house and tired kids, you are still minutes away from a good tasting, healthy meal on a weeknight. Yes, you are. The answer is not McDonalds. The answer is fish. Don’t assume your kids won’t like it. On this we must remain firm – they won’t like it if it never appears in front of them. We must try. I’ve seen mine eat it and my fully formed opinion is that they want to dislike it more than they actually dislike it. How can I expect them to develop their palates if I cave at their resistance? Besides, I have a secret weapon. Soy sauce. In general, soy sauce conquers all. Tonight, we cook a healthy fish meal that is ready in minutes for tired, hungry, backpack dumping kids (thank you, Melissa Clark).
When we get home the first thing the kids do after dumping their backpacks is open the fridge. I will be ready. Raw vegetables and dip…Asian inspired dip which you (yes) made ahead. This is a tactic I regularly employ – a bowl of cold vegetables for them to pick at while I cook. They are starved and it’s a great time to work the vitamin chain. While they eat that, I will quickly steam mild tasting flounder and greens. I usually have rice cooked ahead and tonight is no exception. If you still think this won’t work, offer dessert (it’s not a bribe…it’s an incentive.). A little green tea mochi (they are cute and fun) keeps the Asian theme going and provides a great bribe incentive for kids to clean plates.
Give this a try Monday or Tuesday.
Tips and Notes
Asian Style Dip (add the liquids less than recommended – if it needs more you can always add more later)
So you went apple picking…and now you’re feeling overrun. What on earth are you going to do with 85 apples? It seemed so fun at the time. The web is filled with ideas for apple overflow (pies, sauce, butter). But maybe you want to create a meal, or, surprise surprise, a menu out of your apples! There is a restaurant near us called Applewood that hosts theme dinners where an ingredient is highlighted throughout the meal. That is what I am doing here. Bring on the apples!
We start with a cocktail. Forget apple martinis – we are going hard cider here with The Pork Chop from Miami’s Yarbird. Next, a big bowl of a crisp salad from Eye Swoon (click, it’s gorgeous – and do not skip the basil, it makes it). Because you called 10 friends to join you, you need a huge pork shoulder like the one from Pioneer Woman roasted with apples and onions, and smartly paired with wild rice (we need more wild rice in life). To finish, you’re taking everyone to Russia with a simple and gorgeous Apple Sharlotka from The Smitten Kitchen. Happy eating!
I am lucky. I like my mothers-in-law (I have two). One recently came for a visit. She is funny, eccentric, opinionated. She raises her eyebrows a lot. She calls me “darling”. She buys me clothes that actually look good on me. She is, in short, a riot. She also is dying to go back to Paris but has no plans in sight yet. So for her visit, we thought we would do our best to take her there.
This menu starts with gougères. They are a home cook’s entertaining secret weapon. They are made ahead, baked from the freezer and wildly impressive. Next, potato leek soup but glammed up with some fried parsley…PURTY. For the main course we go old school but with a modern twist – spiced duck à l’orange. Do not freak out – if you can cook chicken you can cook duck. In fact, everyone should cook duck, it’s delicious. And last but not least, a flashback to 1970s dinner parties with creamy delicious (make ahead) chocolate mousse. Dreamy.
For the duck you will need to order a couple of items in advance – the Orange Blossom Water, maybe the Buckwheat Honey and the Ras Al Hanout. Amazon carries each of these things. You may also need to ask your butcher for the duck. Make the effort…your mother in law will appreciate it.
REQUEST: If you make one thing from this menu, I would URGE you to try the gougères. They are the killer app (ha!). Go straight for gruyere…don’t mess with inferior cheddar. I follow the linked recipe exactly, and I mix by hand. There is always a scary moment when you add the eggs and you’re SURE you’ve ruined it – just keep stirring and trust…it will come together. They are hot light steamy cheesy awesomeness. They go straight from your freezer to the oven to a plate where people will swoon and loudly proclaim your greatness. Feel like a hero.