2008 Christmas Menu

At the request of Ms. Finn, the Christmas menu was downscaled. Totally appropriate after the blowout Thanksgiving and lots of other great holiday meals. I did try a few new recipes, with a couple being keepers, and one not to bother with again.

Let's start with the bad news. The dinner roll recipe is far too much labor for an adequate result. Since this menu was essentially pretty simple (I know, it doesn't look simple - but the quantities were small since it was just our family, and some things are easier than they look)....anyway, I was willing to invest some time in a pretty complex technique for dinner rolls. Not only were there multple kneading steps, but there were multiple cooking steps. The rolls were first baked in a cake pan, then broken apart and baked at a different temperature on a sheet pan. I was expecting something really sublime - like the crusty exterior and delicate interior promised in the recipe. But no luck. The rolls were ordinary and the preparation process was anything but. So no go on this one.

The Pork Roast is a variation of a Gourmet recipe from this December's issue. Instead of a straight roast, I use a crown cut, which really just means it was trimmed in order to be tied into a circle for impressive presentation. Here's picture prior to cooking.

This recipe is quite nice - a blend of apricots, prunes and granny smith apples is combined with shallot, onion and port, then stuffed into a cavity in the center of the roast. A port / shallot reduction becomes the sauce, which would be better thickened in another manner than cornstarch. But very nice nonetheless, and a GREAT presentation. In the first picture above, you'll see the circle of stuffed fruit in the middle of the chop.

The parmesan puff appetizer is totally simple and delicious. The only downside is the mess (and hassle) of dee
p frying. I used a very shallow depth of oil in a pretty small pan to reduce the amount of oil. The only way I committed to frying was that I used the same oil for frying shallots for the Brussels sprouts dish. Unless I kept a mini deep fryer around, I don't have much desire to fry. But if you've got oil going, this is a good recipe to add to a menu.

Wild rice and mushrooms were standard - roast mushrooms in high heat with garlic and oil, added them to wild rice cooked with sauteed onion, thyme and chicken stock. Solid complement to this menu, as were the simple green beans to please the kids (few sprouts eaten by the younger crown in this house). It's a risk to add herbs and lemon zest, but sometimes I can get away with it at a holiday meal.

The Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms recipe is totally awesome - and simple if you skip the fried shallots. I didn't think they were worth the extra effort, and will continue to simply roast shallot slices with the sprouts or mushrooms. Instead of sauteing the mushrooms separately, I also roast them in the oven, separately from the sprouts but same technique. Toss with thyme and finish with some butter. To match the recipe, a quick saute of shallot, reduced white wine and thyme could be tossed to finish this dish.

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