December 27, 2007

Christmas Vacation

christmas dinner

I figured I should get around to writing this up, only about a month late. :)

This year we flew back to Michigan early to attend my grandmothers 100th birthday. We ended up spending about two weeks there. As usual I brought my knives and spices with me and got to cook a few meals for my parents.  My mom was starting chemo, so we weren't sure if she'd be up to eating. It turned out that she was able to eat, so it was extra special to be cooking for them.

I wanted to have some chicken broth on hand, so for the first meal I made a roast chicken and potatoes. We found that Horrocks had some nice Amish-raised chickens and reasonable prices, and I was surprised to see a nice variety of vegetables there, including obscure ones like bitter melon. After the roast chicken I made pumpkin-sausage penne and a chicken cacciatorra. (So I could make more broth.)

The next night, I set out to make my "bavette bordelaise", which I usually make with hanger steak (onglet). Unfortunately Horrocks didn't have it, but made a couple of suggestions.  The guy at the first place has been a butcher for 15 years and had never heard of it.  He suggested a mexican place, which wasn't a proper butcher (they had skirt, but it was frozen and in 5lb packs).  I ended up trying a place in East Lansing, which claimed to have it, but ended up giving me flap steak (bavette), calling it hanger.  I made it with my usual red wine / shallot sauce, potatoes sarladaise, and green beens. A few days later,  on christmas eve, I used the extra meat (it was a big chunk of steak) to make my fajitas. (They do have poblanos in Michigan.)

roast beast

For our big Christmas meal, I made a standing rib roast. Emily likes it, it is traditional in some families, and it was what I made for them before they last left San Francisco. I again started with Alton Brown's instructions, aging the roast in the fridge for a few days.  But I added a garlic-rosemary rub and salted it ahead of time, per the Zuni cookbook.  For sides I made a squash and brussel sprout dish that I also made for thanksgiving. (You would have read about it last November, but it seems I forgot to actually post the article - I'll post it now.) I also made my parmesan mashed potatoes, green beans, and swiss chard sautéed in oil with some garlic. I got to feed my Grandmother, which made it extra special. (She loved the vegetables - probably one reason why she's 100 years old.)

It was a good Christmas, and a nice break from a busy time in my life. Although I wish Dan and Carmen could have joined us, and I missed having Carmen's parents join us - they always brought a couple of dishes, usually a chicken lo-mein and some kind of shrimp cake, to go with our food, and I always made cucumber kimchee for her Dad. 

Still, we were happy to be back in the bay area.  The weather was happier, I get all of my wacky ingredients again - everybody has hanger steak, I can pick up goat loin at the farmer's market, the corner stores have fresh herbs, and local produce have extra-long seasons.
Oh, and christmas gifts - it was the year of the thermometer for me. I got two of the probe thermometer on my list, which seems to work well - it's faster and more accurate than my old, broken one.  My Dad also fixed my broken one, and Emily got me a IR thermometer. You aim it at something, pull the trigger, and it tells you the temperature. It's a toy, but it has turned out to be more useful than I'd thought it would be.  I know when things are getting close to going into the fridge, double check oil and sugar temperatures, and look for cold spots in the house.
I also got some wonderful books including Peterson's fish and seafood book and the citizen cake book. (Emily has me on the hook for one of the desserts for Valentines day, the recipe spans 7 pages, wish me luck.)

December 11, 2007

Menu for Hope

It's that time of year again - Menu for Hope IV is underway, go check out Pim's blog, pick out some nice prizes, and donate. The prizes are provided by food bloggers, each $10 of donation will get you a spot in a raffle for one of the items, donations go to the UN's food program.