Monday, December 29, 2008

Cook, Baby, Cook

We celebrated Christmas Eve with a hearty selection of finger foods.

The gorgeous greens before preparation for Christmas Day dinner.

The gin-flambéed roast duck surrounded by wild duck fillets wrapped in bacon.
In the space of four months, October 2008-January 2008, our family is experiencing two weddings, two military deployments, the turnover of tenants in the rental property that helps to pay our mortgage, a job change for one of our breadwinners, final exams, and various and sundry “life happens” events, such as the failure of our 23-year-old heating system. So one might expect—in advance and with some certainty—that there will be emotional bumps along the road during the holidays.

What is a mother to do? What have many mothers, in many places, over many centuries done before? My antidote to anticipated holiday blues is (taking a prosodic cue from the GOP presidential convention): “Cook, Baby, Cook.”

Cook, Baby, Cook means gingerbread men, pralines, and sugar cookies before Christmas week begins, and huge spreads for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I only hope that I am blessed, for many years to come, with the health, happiness, and company of the loved ones who gathered to eat it all.

The concept for Christmas Eve was finger food, with the menu including crab puffs, scallops wrapped in bacon, Italian mini-meatballs, brie en croute, spinach dip, salmon mousse, and celery stuffed with blue cheese spread. We began with egg nog and finished with chocolates. Whew!

Christmas Day was more formal. The menu was inspired by my son-in-law’s gift of five wild ducks, which produced a number of boneless four-ounce duck breasts and an equal number of tiny legs. This was a gift of true love from both him and my daughter: They plucked, cleaned, and filleted the ducks themselves. To the wild duck, we added one farm-raised Long Island duck. The cultivated duck provided a good supply of fat to roast the wild meat, which was totally lean. I relied on James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking for the details on roasting the duck and making the sauce, and followed his suggestion of flambĂ©ing it with gin at the table before serving.

The full menu was:

Steamed artichokes with butter sauce
Salad of baby frisee with spiced walnuts and pears
Roast duck, wild and cultivated in Port and orange sauce
Curried rice
Asparagus with lemon
Frozen lemon mousse
Chocolate Christmas trifle

The frozen lemon mousse recipe is also from Beard’s Theory and Practice. It is an absolutely foolproof dessert. Anyone can make it and everyone loves it.

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