Wow. It’s 2015. Happy belated New Year, everybody. It seems — somewhat unintentionally — that I have taken a hiatus from making posts here. I must have needed a break I guess. Which is odd because I certainly didn’t take a break from cooking. The end of 2015 saw a flurry of cooking for Chanukkah — soul-food Chanukkah dinner for 22 — and then a flurry of soups — squash and chicken all around — and then yet another flurry for New Year’s Eve.
But regardless: I’m back. And I’m ready to cook. And I’m ready to write. And though I don’t really — as a rule — make New Years resolutions, I’m back with a couple of New Years resolutions for the blog.
What kind of Christmas cookies am I making this year? Lots of them. That’s what kind. Thirteen dozen cookies so far, and six dozen left to make.
There aren’t any recipes here. But this year’s baking bounty includes gingersnaps and orange cardamom shortbread. The gingersnaps are from Chez Panisse, via David Lebovitz, and are my most favorite gingersnaps in the world. And the orange-cardamom shortbread is homegrown, available here, and may be my very favorite winter cookies hands down.
Bake and enjoy! I can’t send you all cookies, alas. But by making them yourselves, you all get the added bonus of rescenting your house with the not-too-saccharine smell of holiday cheer!
I agonized — let me tell you — about what to call this recipe. First, in my head, it was a pumpkin pot pie. But that sounded too much like a plain old pumpkin pie; or like a pot pie with little chunks of pumpkin floating around. Not appetizing. Then it was a poultry pot pumpkin. That, I thought, was cleverer. But it was unclear to the folks on whom I tested it what the pot meant, given that we don’t live in Colorado or Washington State. I went back and forth until Sarah finally told me: why don’t you give it a descriptive — not cutesy — title? Your readers will appreciate it, and the fairies at Google who decide how to rank pages will appreciate it too. So I did. And it’s what you see above.
But no matter what this dish is called, here’s the important part: there’s lots of stuff floating around on the Internet about what to cook for Thanksgiving. I’ve posted here, in fact, about how one might go about roasting a turkey, making squash side dishes, and even pumpkin mousse. But what’s really important in this season of too much food is not what you do on the day itself, but — clearly — how you handle the leftovers.
Is your old model caramelized onion tart starting to feel long in the tooth? Do you bring it to parties only to have your friends and family give it a big ho hum? Well I’m here to tell you, folks, that the new and improved Twice Cooked onion tart is here to save the day, taking your allium game from old to new.
That’s right. Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast, we’ve upgraded our caramelized onion tart from one featuring Manchego cheese and a few Walnuts to one bursting with bacon, Brussels sprouts, and a cheddar so sharp that it will make the back of your tongue convulse with joy (your Cheddar may vary).
Passover is coming next week, and it is about nothing — culinarily speaking, of course — if not lamb. Sure, the matzoh takes the prize as the most distinctive Passover food, all dry and crunchy — and delicious, so long as you don’t have to eat it exclusively for seven days. And sure, the horseradish wins in the category of “why is this night different from all other nights.” But before you go barging off to make your Hillel sandwiches, consider this: a seder isn’t a seder at all — literally — without the lamb.
Look at your bible. Exodus 12. It’s all right there.
Yesterday, as the latest in Philadelphia’s series of serious winter storms began littering us with heavy, wet snow mixed in with pellets of ice and freezing rain — just about at the moment it became apparent that I wouldn’t be going outdoors, except perhaps with an oversized shovel — it occurred to me: I have on hand most of the ingredients belonging to several of my go-to V-Day culinary treats. But for none of those treats do I have all.
For chocolate mousse, for example, I am currently in possession of the eggs and the chocolate. But there is no cream to be found anywhere among my stores. For baked custard, I have saffron on hand, and (again) the eggs. But I’m all out of milk. For cake I lack frosting fixings, and for cookies chocolate chips. And I’d gladly whip up a mess of decadent French toast — a favorite of Sarah’s, and totally Valentine’s appropriate — except that in the absence of bread or dairy, what’s left might better be called an omelet.
I had thought, this year, that I might post a recipe that would be appropriate for the big game, the pigskin classic, the Super Bowl. It is, after all, one of the great calendar customs of the United States, in which folks come together to mark the passing of the winter with symbolically complex entertainment, the company of friends and family, and the life-affirming (if somewhat unhealthy) consumption of many of our native foods. It’s one of the great folk festivals, like the Palio in Siena, where the community as a whole bands temporarily into factions that compete against one another, but where that competition is ultimately about reaffirming our unity.
I explained all this to Sarah, and this is what she said: Clearly — you know nothing about football, or the Super Bowl. Not at all. So if you’re going to do this, you had better ask the advice of the Internet.
We’re cutting it awfully close to the wire, here, for making a New Years themed blog post. But I wanted to share this one in particular before the calendar turned.
The thing with this recipe, and with black eyed peas in general, is that they’re good luck when eaten during that liminal space as we step from one year to the next. The thrust of the tradition is that they represent coins and prosperity. And that our eating them represents incoming cash.
It’s been a holiday-scented whirlwind of baking around here. Because like I told you in the eggnog post — this year is all about the Grinch reduction effort. What we’ve got are some (festively shaped) gingersnaps from David Lebovitz, my own winter spice oatmeal cookies, and a batch of homemade canine treats that I’m sure are delicious — just not to me.
Folks who are getting cookie care packages this year — you know who you are. Everybody else: make some! You’ve got the recipes.
This year, I’m doing my best to get into the holiday spirit — or at least to curb my inner Grinch. I have resolved to stay away from those end-of-the-year triggers that traditionally set me on edge: the malls, the peppermint lattes, and those supermarket-side bell-ringers whose infernal tintinnabulations plague my shopping*. And I’ve decided instead to embrace those customs that actually do inspire cheer.
So I’m making my list (and checking it twice). I’m baking desserty treats filled with warm winter spices. I’m listening to Jethro Tull’s “Ring Out, Solstice Bells” (beware, video!). And I’m mixing up experimental batches of eggnog.
Yes, I said eggnog.