David gave me the best present ever this Christmas! He gave me a professional photo studio light set, complete with reflecting umbrellas and 250 watt light bulbs. Wowee, I about fell out of my seat. Of course I set the whole thing up immediately, in the dining room. My dinner guests were extremely good sports and waited for dinner for an hour and a half while I played with my lights. The food shots on this page are all with the new system. What do you think?
My Christmas Menu:
Steamed Green Beans
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Somehow in the flurry of Christmas preparations, I mixed up which pork roast recipe I had planned. Can you believe it? I had planned on using a recipe from Williams and Sonoma for Crowned Pork Roast with Calvados Sauce. I made this a few Christmases ago and it was fantastic. I was reviewing my own pork rib roast recipe and saw that I usually do it exactly the same way I do a rack of lamb, only I extend the oven time a bit.
So, off to the races. I mixed up a nice marinade of olive oil, rosemary, garlic, lemon and white wine. I massaged it into the pork roast entirely, covered it up with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge. Oops, does that sound like apples and apple brandy? No, it sounds an awful lot like the rosemary and garlic marinade I put on my lamb. I had temporarily time traveled back to Easter I guess. Do I panic? Heck no, I just decided to make the pork dressing with the apples and calvados instead. The pork roast was still going to be delicious with the lamb treatment. Problem solved!
For the dressing, I used left over french bread that I had cubed and toasted in the oven on low for about half an hour. I used the left over pork from the frenching of the roast, the process of removing all the meat from the end of the bones.
Most good butchers will either grind this up for you or, at least, give you the scraps. So I cut it up very fine, browned it with apples, onions, celery and butter. I added calvados, apple brandy and chicken stock, then simmered it for a bit before adding it to the french bread cubes. I like to add an egg to oven baked stuffing. So, before adding the bread cubes to the meat and vegetable mixture, I cooled it off a little. Once cooled, I added a beaten egg. This prevents the egg from scrambling, but still allows the egg to keep the dressing moist and a little custardy. It came out great. Very moist, very tender, very delicious!
I made herb roasted potatoes because they are simple to make and you can’t mess them up. I had planned on roasted redskin potatoes, but the ones I bought in a big bag were more scraggly looking than I had thought. I had to peel them.
I have to say, about the only thing I hate to do in the kitchen, is to peel potatoes. I don’t mind peeling carrots, peeling apples, chopping, dicing, slicing, I just hate to peel potatoes. Maybe I had too much KP duty in a former life. Anyway, peel away, I did. I roasted them by coating with a bit of olive oil, salt and a tiny bit of chopped rosemary. A little rosemary goes a long way. I roasted them at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes, turning them halfway through. Just before serving, I dressed them with a little melted butter. Wow, very tasty and because they were peeled, they were extremely tender. No tough pieces of skin that sometimes become leathery. So, my advice, peel the potatoes!
I made the squash the day before. I bought a few small butternuts. I cut them in half, seeded them and roasted them, cut side down in a baking dish with a little water in the bottom at 350 degrees for about an hour. I almost ruined them. I was taking a little snooze while they were in the oven and my nose woke me up. Yikes! Burning squash! Well, not to worry, my nose always tells me when things are done, even if sometimes, just in the nick of time. David says I don’t need timers, my nose always tells me what time it is. Once the squash cooled, I scooped it out of the skin, mashed it with a little butter and salt and pepper and I was good to go. It reheats beautifully.
I added steamed green beans, the ones I buy from Publix, already cleaned and trimmed in a microwavable bag. I poked a few holes in the bag, zapped them for 4 minutes and dumped them into a pretty serving dish. I dotted with a tiny bit of butter and added salt and no pepper – Mum hates pepper. So, I always serve the pepper on the side at the table.
As for dessert, I made baked Alaska with flaming brandy and homemade cherry sauce from fresh cherries I pitted myself. Ha Ha! No I didn’t! I served Mrs. Smith’s frozen pumpkin pie and it was fabulous! Give me a break!
Mum was the best sport of all, as always. She spent the whole day with us and pretended she was enjoying herself while I was photographing all the food for at least an hour and a half. When I’m in the photo mode, I have to mock up certain dishes so they don’t get cold and overdone when reheated. The process can get pretty involved, especially with a big menu like this one. Mum, so patiently, waited while I went through my hi-jinks. I’m sure she was starving, but she never said a word, except, “isn’t this fun”. She is a dear!