Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Feasting

I never appreciated how much good holiday food I've eaten in my life until I had to make it myself. Of course, Thanksgiving means that the turkey and all the fixin's make it to the [beautifully decorated] table. Christmas means another huge feast, not to mention, special breakfast, cookies, neighbor treats, gingerbread for the gingerbread houses, and oranges and nuts finding their way to the bottom of our stockings. Somehow, all these years, the tasty food has always made it to the table, and the only considerations I made were how I could fit both the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes on that little space still available on my plate.

This being my first Christmas as the mom, it was enlightening to create the holiday food traditions. In some ways, it was fun to bring old classic dishes from my home and new recipes that call for such a festive occasion. In other ways, I missed sitting in my childhood kitchen, doing something small like peeling potatoes or making the salad while chatting with my mom, who was probably making five dishes simultaneously, pots on all burners, gently simmering away. But, after all, I felt a kinship with my mom and her mom and all the mothers who came before, because our tradition of cooking holiday meals transforms any old December 25th into Christmas Day, the day of the Savior's birth! What a good reason to celebrate!

This was our Christmas Eve feast:

Honey-Orange Ham
This recipe came from an old Martha Stewart Christmas issues--maybe 2004? Anyway, it actually features the family of an old mission buddy of my husband's--Matt H., if you are our there, thank your mom for her great ham recipe! Your Christmas in Midway was picture perfect!
1 whole smoked ham (14 to 18 pounds), bone in and rind on
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 large onion, cut into 6 wedges
1 large orange, cut into 6 wedges
4 sprigs rosemary
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Rinse ham with cool water; dry with paper towels. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature 1 hour. Meanwhile, whisk together honey, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, and mustard; set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with rack in lower third. FIt a roasting pan with a rack and place ham, with the thicker rind on top, on rack. Scatter onion and orange wedges and rosemary around ham on rack. Transfer to oven and cook 1 hour.
3. Remove pan from oven and let ham cool slightly. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Trim fat all over the ham to a layer of about 1/4 inch (it does not need to be perfectly even; the bottom will have less fat and more skin). Turn ham, bottom side down. Score fat on top of ham in a diamond pattern, each 1 to 2 inches, cutting about 1/4 to 1/2 inch through the fat and into the meat. Baste with honey mixture. Add enough water to roasting pan to fill the bottom by about 1/4 inch.
4. Return ham to oven, and cook 1 hour more, basting often with remaining marinade (do not baste with pan juices). If necessary, add water to pan to keep juices from burning. Remove from oven; transfer ham to a serving platter; discard orange, onion, and rosemary. Let stand 30 minutes before carving ham.
5. Meanwhile, make gravy: Strain liquid from roasting pan into a liquid measuring cup or bowl, and skim off fat from surface with a large spoon. Place roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add cider vinegar, and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Return defatted juices to pan along with 2 cups stock. Bring to a boil, and let simmer.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups stock and the flour; whisk into sauce. Continue simmering until liquid is reduced by half and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with ham.

Green Bean, Watercress, and Crispy Shallot Salad
Coarse Salt and Ground Pepper
1 Pound Green Beans, trimmed
1 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower
3 Shallots, thinly sliced crosswise into rings
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. [they say to have a big bowl of ice water ready to go to dunk the beans, but I just scoop up the green beans with my seive and rinse the beans in cold water from the faucet. Less messy and a lot less work.] Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cook green beans in boiling water until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Cool green beans completely, then transfer to lined baking sheet and pat dry.

2. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium-low. In a small bowl, toss shallots with flour. Working in three batches, fry shallots in oil until golden and crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer shallots to paper towels and season generously with salt.

3. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil to combine; season dressing with salt and pepper. Place watercress on a serving platter and drizzle with half the dressing. Toss with green beans and remaining dressing. Serve sprinkled with shallots. [not being a huge fan of fried things, I couldn't get over how much I loved these shallots!! They seem like a sophisticated indulgence, even though they are glorified onion rings.]

And, for something sweet, I made another apple pie and a chocolate pistachio torte . Love that death by chocolate.

I chickened out of making rolls, even after a good pep-talk and fabulous recipe from my friend and roll mentor, Kristy. Instead, I delegated the rolls, along with a few other dishes to our gracious dinner guests. Kristy, I will make dinner rolls successfully and give the full report. That's a new year's resolution.

For Christmas morning, however, I attempted baking with yeast, for better or for worse. I was equipped with an acclaimed orange roll recipe, tried and true among good friends, and can you imagine the perfect Christmas picture of opening presents, while the aroma of orange rolls waft through the house from the kitchen?! I know!

I attempted Tiffany's famous recipe:
Out of this World Rolls
2 packages dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
3 eggs, well beaten
4 ½ cups flour
1 cup warm water
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Soften yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Let stand 10 minutes. Combine dissolved yeast, eggs, 2 ½ cups flour, 1 cup warm water, shortening, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat until smooth. Add remaining flour to make a soft dough. Cover. Let rise until double in bulk (about 1 hour.) Punch down and refrigerate overnight. Three hours before baking, roll out as desired. For dinner rolls, divide dough in half. Roll each half into a ½” thick rectangle. Spread with butter. Starting with the long side, roll up jelly-roll style. Cut in 1” slices. Place in greased muffin tins, cut side down. Cover. Let rise 3 hours. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 7 to 8 minutes or until slightly brown. YIELD: 2 ½ dozen rolls.

1/3 cup butter
½ cup sugar
Rind of 1 orange, grated

Combine ingredients. After rolling dough into two ½” thick rectangles, divide above mixture and spread on ½ of each rectangle. Fold rectangles in half. Cut each into 12 strips with a pizza cutter. Pick up each strip and gently stretch, then tie into a knot. Place on greased baking sheet with edges, making sure the ends of the dough are tucked underneath roll. Let rise 3 hours. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 7 to 8 minutes or until slightly brown. Make sure they are baked through so they are not doughy. Drizzle with powdered sugar icing while warm. (Powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, dash of salt.)

Mine were good for the most part, except I think I made them maybe 3 times the size that they were intended. My yield was maybe 12, instead of the recipe's suggested 2 1/2 I pulled them out, they were pretty doughy in some spots. I cut out the dough, and we enjoyed them thoroughly.

To round things out, I made some yogurt parfaits. I loved it, even though I suspect that the boys thought they were too girly somehow. Sorry, guys, no egg casserole today! Let's keep things a little lighter, shall we?
Pretty Pink Parfaits
2 cups strawberry yogurt
frozen berries, thawed
1 banana
sweetened whipped cream

Layer in a parfait glass: yogurt, granola, berries, banana. Repeat until parfait reaches the top of the glass and top with whipped cream and a tad more granola.