This year’s Christmas was wonderful — way less rushed than it sometimes is — and although I slacked off and took barely any photos, I did document a couple things of note (to me anyway). It turns out that most of them are about food. Is anyone surprised? I didn’t think so.
First off, I kicked off Christmas morning with monkey bread. (I’m still toying with my recipe, but it’s a sort of mash-up of this one and this one.) I’m happy to report that although I was worried a whole night out on the counter to rise would exhaust the yeast dough, it didn’t; the whole thing was delicious!
Although I didn’t get to make it on Christmas day last year with The Boy’s family, I did make it while we were up there (boxing day afternoon, in fact), and I know my list says “Christmas morning cinnamon rolls” but I nonetheless consider that my tradition is built.
After picking at these with my family and having a sugar-fueled discussion about the merits of monkey bread vs. cinnamon buns, I realized I’d rather have the bread. The basic ingredients are the same: dough, cinnamon, egregious amounts of brown sugar and butter. The amount of work, depending on how you want to coat the little balls in the cinnamon, is about the same. The difference, as my dad pointed out, is that the monkey bread is a communal feast — everyone is in there with a fork yanking out little pieces and mopping up caramel off the plate to then burn their tongues on. With cinnamon rolls, there wouldn’t be any of that. There’d be a tray and a line-up, and everyone eating off their own plate.
So yes, I’m editing the list, and am happy to see that I am ever so slowly whittling away at it.
Shortly after the four of us, slightly dizzy from so much sugar on an empty stomach (oh, I’ll remember to pack some whole wheat flour next time!) hit up the presents and despite The Boy’s cynicism that books aren’t fun presents because they’re easy to guess, I was very happy to unwrap The Flavour Bible.
I can’t remember quite where I’d first read about it, back around September-ish, but whatever I’d read had prompted me to swing by our local bookstore and flip through it. At the time, I’d ended up deciding that I’d rather spend the money on yarn (ahem), but did proceed to hint heavily to The Boy when I got home. Lucky for me, he listened!
A couple days after unwrapping it, I’d read all the intro and notes, and flipped through most of the index. The day I got home, I even used it! When I got back to our snowy home (just me and kitties; The Boy had headed north to be with his parents for a few days), laden down with my mom’s surplus oyster mushrooms (thanks mom!), I made myself a lazy dinner of mushroom omelet*. While frying up the mushrooms, I idly flipped to the index for them and saw a “highly recommended; food marriage made in heavy; zOMG!” listing for garlic. Really? Mushrooms and garlic? I am embarrassed to say that although I love both ingredients with fervent ardour, I have never once in my life fried them together in butter. So I did. The book didn’t disappoint.
* Although The Boy loves eggs, he’s not into omelets, and I’m sure I’ve documented at length my dismay at his non-love of mushrooms, so I won’t go into that again. As I tend to feel fairly unmotivated when The Boy’s not around, most of my dinners end up being one-pot affairs: soup, quick fridge-cleaning stir-fries, omelets or hash.
More on the reading front, I was excited, while in my hometown, to be able to borrow my first ever e-book from our library! The book in question is Blood, Bones and Butter, a book I’d actually flipped through in person at the library before, but didn’t have time to read. When I read through David Lebovitz’s cookbook roundup for the year, however, I headed straight back to the library’s reservation system and put in my request. (Well requests. There was more than one book on that list that piqued my interest.)
I’m now more than two thirds through it, and have found it to be a really good read, thus far. Despite the fact that there is a strong undercurrent of unhappiness (or maybe just of Want?) running through the whole story, I am in awe at how capable Ms Hamilton is, and I keep hoping to read up to her happily ever after.
While I was curled up on the couch knitting (and ripping back, sigh) while reading (a practice that made my mom roll her eyes), my dad was busy in the kitchen breaking a long-standing family curse.
My family, like many families, loves food. Both my parents are able and curious cooks, and I’ve no doubt that I owe my culinary leanings pretty much entirely to my upbringing. My mom owns many a cookbook — and keeps buying more on a fairly regular basis — but I suspect she just likes the gorgeous food pictures, because anytime she stands at the stove, she cooks freehand. My dad (the bread baker in the family) is a little more methodical: he starts with a written recipe that he modifies and experiments with, documenting his changes, until he’s happy with it, then puts that new “master” recipe in his book. Between them, my parents have taught me to make bread, jam, stock, a roast, a balanced Chinese soup, and a host of other things. One thing they didn’t teach me? Gravy.
For as long as I can remember, my parents hosted both our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and every year that I can remember, the gravy that was served with said dinner was canned. Oh, my dad and I tried. We’d boil the turkey giblets and reduce the liquid to a good-smelling brown liquid that we’d then stir the pan drippings into, and stir, stir, stir, blending a spoonful of floor in and stir, stir, stir-ing again, watching, hoping as… nothing happened. Inevitably we ended up with a thin, anemic-looking gravy that never seemed quite meaty enough. We tried creating flavourful broths — out of mushrooms, chicken meat, even beef stock — to mix with the drippings to no avail. We tried giving it longer to thicken up, we tried making the gravy days ahead with drippings from another roast. I couldn’t tell you what we did wrong, but they all failed.
This year, however, my dad did it. As we were readying pans of veggies for roasting, my dad stood at the stove stirring patiently, before quietly announcing that the gravy was ready. No cans involved. The curse is lifted! Now I just need to figure out what he did differently…
My mom’s winter flower; this year amaryllis. I don’t know why I never think to plant indoor bulbs in the fall for some mid-winter colour, but I don’t. I really should!
In the meantime, hope you all had wonderful, restorative Christmas breaks with your families, and are gearing up for a bright new year!