January 19, 2008

That Was the Worst Christmas Ever

Sufjan Stevens actually recorded a song by that title, referring to the year his family got into a big fight and some of the Christmas presents were thrown into the wood stove. For my family, this year's Christmas was certainly the longest Christmas ever, but it could rank up there with the best. I know I'll not soon forget it.

There was the traditional Festivus celebration on Dec 23, complete with the aluminum pole, feats of strength, airing of grievances, and a screening of The Strike. On Dec 24, we did the traditional chili and tamale dinner, birthday party and cake for Auntie, and Christmas presents with Dad's side of the family. Dec 25, more food and presents, fun fun, but my family waited to open presents from each other until Katie got home. So you can imagine that Christmas seemed like really old news by January 9.

On top of that, we didn't even complete the festivities and open all the presents in one night, so Christmas went to round three a few days later. It became a running joke that we were still celebrating Christmas two weeks into January. We were determined to make round three the knockout round, and Scott said in a menacing voice, "Tonight we end this!"

Poach PodsWe started with our traditional Eggs Benedict. This year for Christmas, one of my gifts was three sets of Poach Pods. Though I subscribe to Alton's 'Death to uni-taskers' mantra, these are pretty cute and useful little apparatuses. You just crack the egg in the pod and set it in the simmering water. Some of the reviewers on Amazon complained that it's too hard to remove the cooked egg from the pod. I found it worked well to run a knife between the silicone and the egg's edge, then invert the poached egg onto the serving plate, but it certainly doesn't slide out easily. Then again, getting an egg to poach in a nice oblong shape every time is hard to do as it is. I think the pods helped simplify things, in that one doesn't have to shock the eggs in cold water and drain them on paper towels before moving them to the serving plate. The main complaint I had is that the shape of the pods does tend to make the eggs look rather round on top, like a scoop of ice cream, instead of the flat, ovular shape I'm used to.

Eggs Benedict for Christmas DinnerI don't think I've ever made the same hollandaise recipe twice. I know the first few times I made it, each attempt had huge differences in thickness and the strength of the lemon flavor. Nowadays, my concoction is a hybrid of Martha Stewart's Hollandaise, Brennan's Hollandaise (no idea if this is the famed Brennan's recipe - it looks a little low on acidity to me), and America's Test Kitchen Hollandaise recipes. Martha uses white pepper, for example, prettier than black, unless that's not a problem for you. Brennan's recipe calls for a little red wine vinegar, but Martha and ATK use lemon juice. I use mostly lemon juice but have started adding a bit of vinegar, too. And Brennan's and ATK call for a touch of cayenne. The three recipes vary a bit on their egg/butter/acid ratio.

This year I used three egg yolks, two sticks of butter, juice from one lemon, a teaspoon or so of vinegar, plus salt, black pepper, and cayenne. I happened to have only Meyer lemons, and since they are a sweeter variety, everyone complained that this year's sauce lacked the lemon flavor they're accustomed to. The best and easiest method for mixing the ingredients is to melt the butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave; mix the egg yolks, lemon juice and/or vinegar, and seasonings in a blender; slowly add the butter while the blender is on; then add hot water as needed to thin the sauce.

One interesting dessert that we ate at round two of Christmas was the Norm Thompson Chocolate Coconut Snowball. Devil's Food Cake + a little chocolate frosting + marshmallow frosting + coconut. They were very tasty. Something to think about getting for next year, I suppose. Also, check out that Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas collection. In addition to the aforementioned, look for such fun titles as:


Chet said...

So who won the feats of strength? I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it.

Auntie said...

We greased our egg pods, is that cheating?, and it worked beautifully. The first ones failed to launch.

The plate of EB looks yummy.