Heyy! Merry Christmas! Happy goodbye old year. Happy indeed. Let’s end strong with FOOD.
It’s been a bit since I’ve done a WFS, so I’ll just do a highlight reel of the last few weeks.
I published the last one before I finished making my VERY FIRST PAVLOVA. Turns out to be very easy. I used this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. You beat up a bunch of egg whites and sugar, then mix in lemon juice, corn starch, and vanilla. Then you just glop it onto a pan with parchment paper and bake it in a low oven for an hour; and then you turn the oven off and let it cool down verrry slowly.
Then you whip some cream and sugar and plop that on top, and then you throw berries on it. That’s it!
I forget exactly what boneheaded thing I did, but I ended up putting the pavlova into an oven that was warm, but not actually turned on; and I didn’t notice for something like forty minutes. So then I turned it on for a while, and then I turned it off for a while. Guess what?? The pavlova still turned out fine!
I was skeptical that I would want to eat this much meringue, but it’s got more to it than meringue, and was very pleasant, and not as blindingly sweet as I expected. I think the outer crust was a little tougher than it’s supposed to be, but it was still delicious. The outside is sweet and glossy and crisp, and the inside has a marshmallowy, almost custard-like flavor. It’s supposed to have more cream on top than you see here, but the whipping cream had frozen, so I didn’t have a lot to work with.
As you can see, I put blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate arils, kiwi slices, and mint leaves on mine. That was a very pleasant combination. I thought the mint would taste weird, but it was very nice having that green freshness along with the hot sugar taste. Some people make wreath shapes, which would be very pretty. I also made a bunch of individual pavlovas. Lots of possibilities. Many more pavlovas in our future!
One of my birthday presents was this wonderful cookbook: Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni.
That week, I ended up using a lot of odds and ends of meat we already had in the freezer, so my budget had a little room, and I splurged on a giant hunk of lamb. I cut it up and divided it, and froze 1/3 of the pieces along with the bone.
The first portion, I made into lamb braised in aromatic cream sauce (rogani gosht). You can see that recipe here. You can also make this dish with beef, which I’m sure I will end up doing, because it was fab. Fab fab fab.
Eating a hot bowl of rogani gosht is like being cuddled by a gigantic, affectionate, fluffy cat (that’s the fragrant cream part) who keeps licking you with its rough tongue (that’s the warming spice part). I know that’s weird, but normal descriptions just won’t DO for this dish. It’s not super spicy, but enough to get your attention, and the meat was insanely tender. It just fell apart with the merest nudge from a spoon.
I also made a giant taboon bread. I wanted naan, but it was too late to get it started, so I went with this recipe, which is so easy, and you bake it in the oven all in one big slab.Jump to Recipe
The only thing I forgot was to dimple the dough with my fingertips, and it had already been baking for 7-8 minutes, so like an idiot I stuck my hands in the hot oven and attempted to dimple it anyway. Did not get very far.
But the meal was worth a little burnt fingers. I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and we had a really wonderful meal.
The braised lamb doesn’t look like much, but I’m telling you. IT WAS MUCH. My goodness, what a treat.
Let’s see, what else?
For the last day of school, which was December 22 (ridiculous), I made cookies for Benny’s class party. Just good old reliable no-chill sugar cookies,Jump to Recipe
which I cut out with little holes, and then filled the holes with crushed Jolly Ranchers, so when they baked, they had little candy windows in them.
We frosted them with royal icing and whatever miscellaneous decorations I could find in the cabinet,
and they turned out looking like a bit of a crime scene, but we did have fun.
Another nice meal: Pulled pork on tater tots with red onions and corn. Maybe I was just hungry, but this meal was so freaking delicious.
I made the pulled pork using the apple cider vinegar and cloves recipe I have developedJump to Recipe
and it was just so dang tasty.
Oh, and then we had this over-the-top bacon risotto for the last day of school. Heavy cream, egg yolks, bacon, salami, freshly-grated parmesan, white pepper, and so much butter . . .
I knew it was gonna be amazing, and it was. I didn’t even make anything else for dinner, and nobody complained. I had arborio rice in the house, leftover from the suppli I made for our anniversary, and now I don’t think I’m gonna be able to go back to my old cheap regular rice risotto ways. It was just so luxuriously creamy and rich.
I think people will be asking for this dish for their birthdays. It’s really special.
On Sunday, it was finally Christmas eve! We went to Mass in the morning at our normal time, because Benny was altar serving. Then I got everybody to clean up the house. We weren’t expecting any guests, but we had SO much incredible extra clutter in the house — giant cartons of things, random baskets with other random baskets on top and wads of torn-up leggings flopping around, extra pieces of furniture, dying plants, half-finished crafts, and of course a million Amazon boxes, and of course all the cartons of Christmas decorations that I didn’t manage to put up. And there was this TREE in the living room, and some idiot had strung garlands all over the place, and the line between “merry merry” and “mental breakdown” was getting a little thin. The thought of starting with this mess and adding dozens and dozens of presents and half an acre of discarded wrapping paper and forty six tons of candy wrappers with little wet wads of candy still stuck to them was more than I could deal with.
So I cracked the whip a bit, and we all cleaned that shit up. Even though we weren’t having guests! Then I made everyone take showers, and then we had supper, and then we decorated the tree, and then I started Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls.
I made a triple recipe
and had some help from Corrie spreading on the cinnamon sugar, rolling them up, and cutting them out.
and then they got wrapped up and put in the fridge to rise slowly.
Midnight Mass was lovely. They’ve started having it at actual midnight in the last few years, which is not so hard when your kids are older, and also it’s been warm out, so there wasn’t that horrible “venture out into the icy wind with your flimsy little spangled dress on” challenge. Corrie immediately went to sleep with her head on my lap, so I was tragically forced to sit down the entire time.
We had the foresight to take pictures at the beginning of Mass, rather than at the end. Here are the goons (some of them still in the Covid window, UGH):
and Ma and Pa Goon:
Got home, Damien and I put allll the presents and stockings out
and then we tottered off to bed at around 2:30 a.m.
Dora and Moe came over for Christmas, and we had an excellent Christmas day. We had cinnamon buns and bacon, orange juice and eggnog, and plenty of fruit. Several of the kids made each other homemade presents, and everyone just went above and beyond with thoughtful and amusing gifts.
For dinner, we had our traditional Chinese takeout, acquired in the correct volume by pretending to be four different people (it’s a long story); and Irene got her traditional Jersey Mike’s sub because Chinese food makes her throw up; and then we all played with our new toys and ate lots of candy and then eventually we went to sleep and slept SO HARD.
The next few nights, we had easy dinners: Leftover Chinese food one day, and Italian sandwiches the next, and then we watched Baahubali: The Beginning.
This is one of the most gorgeous, violent, insane, joyfully ridiculous movies I have ever seen, and the very last thing that happened on screen made me go, “WHAT???????” So we’ll be watching part 2, believe me! In the mean time, I went back to my Indian cookbook and pulled the rest of that lamb out of the freezer, and this time I made a curry with tomatoes and potatoes, and also a big pot of rice and some spinach yogurt salad.
Sahni describes this curry as having a “garnet-colored sauce” and that’s just what it is. It’s so rich and the spices blend so nicely, I just don’t even know how to tell you how tasty it was.
I had my doubts about the spinach salad (you cook some spinach, squeeze it out and chop it up and mix it into some heavily seasoned yogurt and sour cream), but it was a completely delightful accompaniment to the curry, very cooling and refreshing along with the savory meat.
I think one kid ate the curry or the yogurt salad. The rest of them had leftovers or eggs. Too bad! Damien and I both had seconds and it made us very happy.
I chose this meal because the recipe called for stuff I already had in the house, but I am so hyped about making more recipes from the book. Her style is nice and clear, and I’m excited!
And that’s it! That’s the year. We have New Year’s Eve coming up, and we usually have a DIY sushi party; then New Year’s Day is Sophia’s birthday, and then we have Benny’s birthday party that we had to postpone because we all got Covid, and then it’s Damien’s birthday, all in the first eight days of the year. I may just make a series of pavlovas. I can see it now: Turning the oven on, turning it off again, turning it on again, turning it off again, whipping more cream, eating more whipped cream, turning the oven on . . . .
I can think of worse fates.
Oh, one last thing: Benny got a taiyaki maker for Christmas.
She made her first batch with Nutella filling. If you’ve had yummy taiyaki, what filling did it have? I’m thinking of red bean paste for New Year’s Eve, if I can find the right kind of beans.
That’s it. That’s my final words of 2023: IF I CAN FIND THE RIGHT KIND OF BEANS. If the world ends and this is my legacy, estoy contenta.
You can make separate pieces, like pita bread, or you can make one giant slab of taboon. This makes enough to easily stretch over a 15x21" sheet pan.
- 6 cups bread flour
- 4 packets yeast
- 3 cups water
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.
While it is running, add the olive oil. Then gradually add the water until the dough is soft and sticky. You may not need all of it. Let it run for a while to see if the dough will pull together before you need all the water. Knead or run with the dough hook for another few minutes.
Put the dough in a greased bowl, grease the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for at least an hour until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400. Put a greased pan or a baking stone in the oven to heat up.
If you are making separate pieces, divide it now and cover with a damp cloth. If you're making one big taboon, just handle it a bit, then put it back in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rest ten minutes.
Using a little flour, roll out the dough into the shape or shapes you want. Poke it all over with your fingertips to give it the characterstic dimpled appearance.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until it's just slightly browned.
No-fail no-chill sugar cookies
Basic "blank canvas"sugar cookies that hold their shape for cutting and decorating. No refrigeration necessary. They don't puff up when you bake them, and they stay soft under the icing. You can ice them with a very basic icing of confectioner's sugar and milk. Let decorated cookies dry for several hours, and they will be firm enough to stack.
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1-2 tsp vanilla and/or almond extract. (You could also make these into lemon cookies)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream together butter and sugar in mixer until smooth.
Add egg and extracts.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar and mix until smooth.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch. Cut cookies.
Bake on ungreased baking sheets for 6-8 minutes. Don't let them brown. They may look slightly underbaked, but they firm up after you take them out of the oven, so let them sit in the pan for a bit before transferring to a cooling rack.
Let them cool completely before decorating!
Clovey pulled pork
- fatty hunk of pork
- salt and pepper
- oil for browning
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup apple juice
- 3 jalapeños with tops removed, seeds and membranes intact
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp ground cloves
Cut pork into hunks. Season heavily with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in heavy pot and brown pork on all sides.
Move browned pork into Instant Pot or slow cooker or dutch oven. Add all the other ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for at least six hours.
When pork is tender, shred.