Chappy Chanukkah, Xappy Xmas

We kept it very simple this year, with no travel and no guests. It’s a pretty nice way to do it, actually, especially given the weather-related mayhem all over the place. Yesterday Milo and I walked into town to see Santa arrive, and then came home in time for me to finish dinner. Sous-vide is genius for this, because I was able to leave the meat in the bath while we were out with no possibility of overcooking it. We had a flat iron steak (around 90 minutes at 52˚ C, then seared quickly in a little duck fat) with rutabaga-celery root purée on baked acorn squash rounds and a dandelion pesto. Very basic, and very good.

Today was a little more involved, yet still totally traditional- mostly for my wife, who lets me do absurdly complicated things on Thanksgiving yet really digs the old favorites. So today it was all the best versions of those touchstones that I could manage.

So I roasted a duck. I made stuffing with good whole wheat bread, the duck liver and some fat, shiitake, copious celery, onion, carrot, and the chicken giblet broth from the other day. I put the rest of the acorn squash in the oven too, next to the duck. I made cranberry sauce with half a tangerine, ginger, decent wine, maple syrup, and black pepper. I glazed the duck towards the end with some strained cranberry sauce and braised collards with leeks, and used some of the duck fat and drippings to make gravy, into which I stirred a fat spoon of the dandelion pesto. While the roast chicken from the other night was perfect for what it was, the added richness of the duck and the extra care in the accompanying dishes made this equally good but on a more intense and decadent level. And it hit the living shit out of every holiday food spot there is, at least in the poultry neighborhood. I floated the idea of a roast, but with just the three of us, a bird made more sense. And we don’t love the ham (unless it’s prosciutto.)

And though we’ve been inundated with cookies, both received and of our own making, I was moved to make a dessert because I had the urge to mess with the mousse from Thanksgiving some more. Not the actual mousse, mind you, which I repeated almost verbatim, but the context. I seared bananas in a pan, then deglazed and flamed with rum, followed by a little maple syrup. There was more of the peanut butter powder that we’ve been playing with, so I mixed it with kinako and a little unswetened cacao, and I steeped some super-strong green tea and blended it with a little spirulina, some agave, and enough Ultratex 8 to give it a little body. Chocolate and banana, chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate and green tea- they all worked wonderfully together. The triple powder was particulary great with the barely-sweet mousse.

And that was it. I hope yours was also tasty, safe, and with happy ending.

7 comments to Chappy Chanukkah, Xappy Xmas

  • cook eat FRET

    beautiful as usual.
    i am a ham disliker myself
    not my thing
    maybe on a sandwich but not hot as an entree…

  • Heather

    I love ham, for what it’s worth.

    For our Christmas dessert, we ate a box of “Peppermint Joe-Joe’s”, which more closely resembled Girl Scout Thin Mints with crushed candy cane topping than hearty steak fries. Although both are great with vodka.

    I’m listening Ride Like the Wind by Christopher Cross.

  • peter

    Claudia: Yup. Also, there’s what Dorothy Parker said: “Eternity is a ham and two people.”

    Blanche: You know, drunk commenting is pretty much the same as drunk dialing, only it lasts longer.

  • Zoomie

    Sounds like your kind of celebration – solid dinner and happy family together. What more could anyone ask?

  • Heather

    Are you hitting on me?

  • Ilina

    Wow, have you made me feel inadequate. Your cooking is inspiring me to make millions of dollars, move to Tuscany, get a professional chef’s kitchen, a vineyard, and a segment on the Food Network.

    I would settle for being invited to your table.

    And maybe a trip to Whole Foods for a duck.

  • peter

    Zoomie: Welcome back. It was refreshingly low-key.

    Blanche: You WOULD think that.

    Ilina: Tell you what: as soon as you get your Tuscan kitchen built, I will come be your private chef.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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