Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fabulous Feasts

Well here we are, the beginning of a new year, 2012.  I would like to reflect on the last two months of 2011 and the amazing food on both Marilyn's Table and the holiday table in Wisconsin. I will begin with our Christmas Eve table.

Chop Suey with Rice
Egg Rolls
Pot Stickers
Steamed buns

Chop Suey was a tradition my mother made every year.  Chris has a knack of deconstructing recipes and reinventing them into a healthier dish. He did the same with this recipe; fresh vegetables instead of the canned ones.  It was very good and brought back memories of growing up.  The egg rolls, pot stickers, and steamed buns were a nice addition to the meal.

Christmas Day is always interesting since the dishes for the meal are brought by all attending.  Here is what was on the table:

Brazilian Cheese Puffs
Salmon-Artichoke-Cheese Spread
Herbed Root Vegetables
Not Yo Mama's Green Bean Casserole
Pretzel Rolls
Cherry Pie

The Brazilian Cheese Puffs is a recipe that came from Susan, with whom I work.  They are really good.  They are made similar to cream puffs in that the water and butter are heated in a sauce pan and the tapioca flour (something I had not worked with before) is stirred in along with grated cheese (Parmesan), salt and two eggs.  The batter is baked in mini muffin tins and served hot from the oven.  The outsides are crispy and the center is very creamy. They are going to be a tradition!

The spread has ten ingredients, but was very easy to put together.  The recipe called for diced chicken, but I substituted diced poached salmon instead.  Everything is put in a bowl and mixed together.  Along with the salmon, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, diced drained artichoke hearts, chopped toasted pecans, green onions, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  I served it in a hollowed out bread bowl with crackers.  Another winner!

A counter top roaster is a new addition to the Clay's kitchen and makes meal preparation so much easier and frees up the oven. They did two turkey breasts in it for Thanksgiving and for Christmas a spiral sliced ham with a glaze.  Unfortunately I don't remember what was in the glaze, but it was just right with the ham.  Root vegetables are a favorite so I cooked small Yukon gold potatoes, baby carrots, baby turnips and baby parsnips in a small about on water and butter until they are fork tender.  A stick of butter is softened and mixed with a mixture of fresh herbs, rolled into a log and frozen.  When the vegetables are cooked the log is sliced and stirred into the vegetables.  The dish is very colorful and enjoyed by all. As Chris did for Christmas Eve with the chop suey, he reinvented the traditional green bean casserole.  No canned soup was used and the beans were not canned.  The sauce had carrots, onion and diced fresh mushrooms.  The topping is a mixture of toasted bread crumbs, french fried onion rings and crumbled bacon.  Sorry Campbell Soup, but this is better!  The pretzel rolls were a new addition not only to the table, but the preparation was something Chris had not before either. We all enjoyed them so I expect we will see them on future tables.  While we watched a movie later on, we had warm cherry pie with ice cream.  Again a wonderful meal with lots of leftovers.

My New Years Eve was quiet, but my meal was memorable.

Baked Clams
Picked Herring Spinach Salad
Champagne Mojito

Pepper Crusted Beef Tenderloin
Shallot and Red Wine Reduction
Sauteed Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Creamed Spinach
Fresh Fruit Slices with Cheese Cake Fondue

I have saved clam shells for years and use them whenever I make baked clams.  I use canned chopped clams with sauteed onion, breadcrumbs and minced parsley.  They are baked and served warm.  Since the meal was spread out over the entire day, I also added a warm spinach salad with pickled herrings in a cream sauce. These are two of my favorites and I had a Champagne Mojito with them. I had never used a simple syrup before so that was a new experience.  Equal parts of water and sugar are heated until the sugar is melted. The liquid is cooled and poured into a pitcher with wedges of lime and fresh  mint leaves.  The handle of a wooden spoon is used to 'muddle' the mixture.  Light rum is added and poured into a glass.   Champagne is poured over the mixture and a sprig of mint added.  A lot of work for a ho hum drink. I won't bother with that again.

I really splurged on the meat and purchased a two pound piece of tenderloin.  After rubbing the meat down with  EVOO a mixture of crushed fresh peppercorns, paprika, minced fresh herbs and salt is rubbed into the surface.  The meat is roasted for about 30 minutes or until medium rare. It is served with a reduction of sauteed shallots, red wine and beef broth.  A bit of cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce and more minced herbs are added.  I love sauteed smashed potatoes and creamed spinach, very simple but they were a perfect addition to the plate. I had leftovers on New Years Day and added the dessert.  A mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon is used as a dip for slices of apple, pear, and melon.  All in all the meals the last two months have been memorable.

I plan to take a couple of weeks off and get back to eating less and healthier.  I will be back when I am back in the groove.  Have a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all.