The Best of Holiday Food Countdown! 11 for 2011!

2 Jan

Since Christmas, I’ve made and eaten some great things.  Read it and weep!

11. PHEASANT. My uncle hunted his first pheasant(s) this December, thus fating them to be served as an appetizer to Christmas dinner.  Lean and flavorful, the bits of pheasant served as the perfect canape.  Yum, yum little birdies.

10. GLUTEN FREE (GASP) GINGERBREAD.  This cake was not only good for a gluten free cake, but it was good for any cake.  My mom made a gingerbread recipe, substituting a gluten free flour mix.  The cake did not come out tasting bean-y or rice-y or anything!  Served with an orange cream cheese frosting, and a layer of mincemeat in the middle, this cake was kind of amazing.

9. HOMEMADE PIZZA.  In an effort to go back to a healthy way of eating, my family decided to have pizza night.  Wah wah, said our thighs.  Yes, please said our stomachs.  My Mom made a great gluten-free pie with chicken; veggies; and pesto, and I made a few random ones (eel sauce and tofu?  white wine sauce and winter veggies?).  Mine used up some leftovers, but they were all tasty!

Mom's gluten free pizza

8. HOMEMADE MAC AND CHEESE.  I will need to find out this sexy recipe from my uncle Mike, a food lover and great cook, who, along with my aunt, hosted us for a Boxing Day party.  His mac and cheese was fabulous.  Made with quinoa noodles and who knows what other magical ingredients, this comforting dish was a winner.

7. LEMON AND PARSLEY HUMMUS.  My mom has been making hummus a lot lately, and one day I decided to make it since we were out and she was busy.  She swears by Mark Bittman’s recipe–lots of lemon juice, garlic, some water from the chickpea can, some olive oil, and a little tahini.  Lately, my mom has been using smoked paprika and/or chipotle peppers in hers, but I added some lemon zest and parsley for a change.  Normally, this would sound cliche to me, but the result was so refreshing and vibrant that we quickly ran out of dip for our veggies and/or fingers (just kidding…ok not really).

6. BEEMSTER AND SERRANO HAM CROQUETAS.  If you’ve never had croquetas, I pity you.  This New Year’s Eve, I brought those little fried balls of bechamel to a new level.  Shreds of super old gouda and pieces of woodsy Serrano ham added to these flavor bomb-diggities, and a coating of smoked paprika-spiked panko sang harmonious back-up vocals.

5. PEKIN DUCK CRACKLINS.  Should be called pekin duck crack.  After drying out the duck’s skin for hours and roasting the whole bird at a high temp, you end up with dark, sexy goodness.  I wish I had a picture of this beaut, but then you might perish from sheer jealousy.  Even though we were serving the duck meat with the cracklins and hoisin on a scallion pancake, I was mostly addicted to that fatty, crispy skin.  Give me that and a beer, and you’ll find I cooperate much better.

4.  MELON SORBET WITH SERRANO CHIP.  Looking at a dessert menu, I would never order sorbet.  Unless it came with something amazing or was a crazy flavor.  Sorbet just doesn’t do it for me.  However, I never really make sorbet, so I wanted to try my hand at it.  I pureed an overly ripe cantaloupe and added in about a cup of simple syrup.  After freezing according to manufacturer’s instructions, I had a refreshing, delicate sorbet.  Damn, I was even surprised with the good results.  For our New Year’s Eve shebang, I served quenelles of it with a duck-fat fried Serrano ham chip.  Oh, yes.  Getting your fruit and protein could easily be a part of my New Year’s resolution.

delicious.

3. MICHAEL SIMON’S FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS.  Are you kidding me, Michael Simon?  Really?  I heard about these Brussels sprouts before, and when we wanted to cook up some sprouts, I decided to check out the recipe.  Deep fried?  In an umami-rich, sweet vinaigrette?  With walnuts?  WHAT?  They were so freaking delicious.  I don’t know what to say.  Eat your cabbage family.  It’s damn good.

barely took a picture before we ate it all!

2. CURRIED DUCK LIVER PATE.  Once upon a time, I bought some duck livers.  Using a chicken liver pate recipe from epicurious.com as my guide, I pureed the seared livers with sauteed garlic and onions.  Instead of using Bourbon and some herbs as the recipe suggested, I added some Amontillado sherry, some sherry vinegar, and curry.  I was surprised that the runny mixture set in the fridge, but I suppose all that butter firmed up in the fridge.  The pate was silky, complex, and delicious.  I may have overdone it on the pate at New Years, but I did so with good reason. Recipe at end of post!

1.  FRUITCAKE RUM PANNA COTTA!!!!!!!!!!  This recipe was a sort of metamorphosis resulting from the accidental misplacement of a very old friend.  My mom was washing out cookie tins, when she found 1/3 of a fruitcake…You see, I started making and aging fruitcakes years ago–in 2007.  Every month or so, I would brush the fruitcakes with rum or brandy.  This treatment caused them to age into rich, moist decadence.  Until one day, I forgot we had any fruitcake remaining.  The one that got away aged an extra year without any loving care.  It shriveled and dried out.  Although it was still somewhat moist in the middle, it was not edible.

I decided to soak it in lots of rum to create a fruitcake-infused rum.  I would strain it and then gelatin clarify it to make a flavorful, clean spirit.  DUMBASS, ALCOHOL DOESN’T FREEZE.  Gelatin clarification is based on the principle that freezing a gelatin will break the gel, allowing liquids to precipitate out, while solids stay behind.  Well, my rum jell-o never froze, so I was left with rum blubber.  Unable to find a local source for liquid nitrogen to remedy the issue at hand, I melted the jell-o down and added some agave nectar to sweeten it.  I would make a sort of epic holiday jell-o shot, appropriately in miniature bundt form.

Answer: too strong, not sweet enough.  So, I melted down that stuff and added sugar and cream!  Panna cotta, anyone?  This time, I found sweet success.  I really enjoyed the mixture of fruitcake flavor and rum in a creamy, silky medium.  They could give you a buzz, to boot.  In my opinion, santa might prefer this delicious treat to cookies on Christmas Eve.  Until he got a sleighing DWI.

fruitcake soaking in rum...

served with aerated eggnog, the "jell-o shot"

Pate Recipe:

1 lb duck livers

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced

4 oz butter

2 T yellow curry powder

1/2 t grated ginger

1/4 c Amontillado

1/2 c cream

1 T sherry vinegar

1 T maple syrup

salt and pepper to taste

duck fat to seal

Sweat the garlic and onions with curry powder and ginger in the butter until soft.  Add the livers and sear until cooked on the outside but still pink inside.  Deglaze with sherry.  Puree in a food processor until smooth.  Add cream, vinegar, maple syrup, and season to taste.  Strain through a mesh sieve or tamis.  Pour into ramekins and chill until firm.  Melt duck fat and pour over top of pate.  ENJOY!

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