Jul, 30 2023
The holiday season is incomplete without the rich, creamy, and gratifying Root Vegetable Gratin. When Marcella introduced me to this hearty dish, it was love at first bite. This casserole brings together the earthy flavors of seasonal root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, and parsnips, topped with creamy bechamel sauce and crispy breadcrumb topping. A dash of rosemary adds that festive piney aroma, making this a colorful, wholesome, and fragrant addition to your holiday table. It's like opening a present right there at the table!
Start off by prepping your vegetables. Running around the kitchen with a peeler, while my kids Lennox and Odessa giggle and play around, fills the atmosphere with warmth and comfort. Remember, as they say, you eat with your eyes first, so take your time to slice these veggies beautifully. As for the bechamel, without proper stirring, it can easily turn to glue, so have your whisk at the ready. As for the breadcrumb topping, using fresh bread gives a far superior result than the pre-packaged version. Marcella showed me that. She's always calling the shots in the kitchen - that's her battlefield!
Our butternut squash soup recipe is the culinary piece de resistance of my holiday cooking. Its smooth texture, paired with a slight hint of ginger warmth, is just what you need to warm up during the cold winter evenings. The pureed butternut squash combined with the heartiness of the vegetable broth gives the soup a comforting depth of flavor. Oh, and let's not forget the topping! A sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds adds just the right crunch and nuttiness.
Remember, the better the squash, the better the soup. Select one that feels heavy for its size and has a solid beige color. And here's a tip: if peeling and chopping a butternut squash seems like a daunting task, pop it in the oven for around 10 minutes to soften it up. Then peel, seed, and cube. Easy peasy. Marcella, however, insists on doing all the chopping, and I think Baxter, our little Scottish terrier, settles for waiting impatiently for any fallen scraps.
My Honey Glazed Ham is nothing but a showstopper. A razzle-dazzle of smoky, savory, and sweet flavors, baked to perfection, and finished with that irresistible glaze. It's the symphony of honey, butter, and dijon mustard that gives it the spectacular shiny crust and rich flavor. It's one of Baxter's favorites too, he keeps a very close eye on it, from the moment it goes into the oven to when it’s set on the table.
The key to good ham is certainly patience. You have to bake it at a moderate temperature, allowing the collagen to turn into gelatin, ensuring the meat remains juicy and tender. The basting process will need some time and attention, but the resulting glistening beauty is absolutely worth it. Keep Baxter distracted though, it's hard to resist that divine aroma!
Here comes the hero of my holiday cooking sagas ― the Classic Plum Pudding! The one that Lennox and Odessa wait all year for, the one we ceremoniously flambé at the dinner table, amid cheers and claps. A dense, dark, and drunken mound of sweetness, spice, and everything nice (read: lots of brandy). It’s like Christmas on a plate!
Plum pudding requires a good mix of dry fruits, a perfect blend of spices, and a generous dose of patience. Since it calls for a lengthy steaming period, make sure you have a nice holiday playlist ready to sway while you wait. But what’s cool about this Christmas classic is that you can prepare it weeks or even months in the advance, and it just gets better over time.
Oh, where to start with Gingerbread Cookies? These little guys are not just cookies, they are a canvas for creativity, especially for the kids. Lennox, Odessa, and I spend hours with our dough and cookie cutters, transforming blobs of ginger-spiced dough into edible pieces of storybook art. Icing those mischievous little gingerbread men is as amusing as watching Baxter try to get in on the action.
The trick to perfect gingerbread cookies lies in the dough refrigeration. It makes the dough firm and easier to roll out. Also, make sure to work in batches to keep the dough at the right temperature. Unleash your creativity when it comes to decoration. Whether you go for Royal Icing, colored sugars, or candies, remember, with gingerbread cookies, you can never over-decorate!
If there’s one recipe that resonates deliciousness, simplicity, and holiday spirit, it’s my Rosemary Garlic Roast Chicken. Just the mere thought of golden skin, tender meat, and the aroma of garlic and rosemary transports me to holiday heaven. Am I right or am I right?
Roasting the chicken at the right temperature is essential to seal in juices and ensure a tender and flavorful output. Ensure your bird is completely dry before you season it; this guarantees a crispy skin. Allow it to rest well before carving to retain all the juices. As Marcella says, "Good things take time," and she's not wrong!
And finally, my favorite holiday beverage — Homemade Eggnog. Rich and creamy, with a splendid blend of eggs, sugar, milk, fresh cream, and the warmth of nutmeg. It's Christmas in a cup. Lennox, Odessa, and Marcella love this sweet concoction equally. Funny how Baxter always manages to sneak in a lick or two when Marcella isn’t watching.
I recommend using only the freshest eggs for a superior, salmonella-free taste. While mixing, ensure the sugar is completely dissolved for a smooth texture. To spike or not to spike, that's an eggnog question, and the answer depends on your audience. Just keep it away from Baxter, he doesn’t need any extra holiday spirit!
That's all folks, now you have a full-fledged holiday feast ready to be whipped up. Each recipe carries a story, a sense of togetherness, and the spirit of celebration. As for me, the joy lies not just in cooking these holiday delights, but in sharing them with the ones I love — Marcella, Lennox, Odessa, and let’s not forget, Baxter. So, go ahead and start cooking and creating your own joyous holiday memories!