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Christmas dinner - Cooking with Sean
December 26th, 2009
10:32 am


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Christmas dinner

I cooked. Whereas Easter dinner was fairly simple (not one-pot, but close), Christmas dinner was perhaps a bit too ambitious.

The first part of the cooking was very laid-back, while the final touches were made wild and crazy by my mother's general lack of counter space. Not only does she have less counter space than I do to begin with, she also has a lot more stuff on her counters. This makes it very difficult to chop a lot of things and then find places to put them. Fortunately, carnage did not result.

Prime rib:
We went to Costco on Sunday morning (a trip only recommended for the brave or those particularly skilled at combat shopping) and I got a big hunk of meat. I let it age uncovered in the fridge for a week. It got a bit of a sear in the roasting pan and then sat in an oven set to 200 degrees (and, later, even cooler still) until the magic number of 130 was reached. Closer to serving time, I threw it back in the oven at 450 to get nice and brown on the outside.

(My mother's kitchen is as poorly-ventilated as it is cramped, so the smoke accompanying the blast of 450-degree heat was quite impressive. We managed not to set off the fire alarm.)

Carving prime rib with bones is a challenge, since carving involved both making proper long slices and figuring out how to free them from the bone without making a mess. The results, however, were well worth the effort. I don't know if I'd go to the expense of cooking prime rib again, but I certainly recommend cooking at 200 degrees to anyone who wants to impress. This is the sort of meat that someone would pay about as much per person to eat at a restaurant as I did for the whole thing.

Alongside the prime rib, I served horseradish sauce made with the Alton Brown recipe. I couldn't find fresh horseradish, but the prepared stuff I used worked well. As my uncle commented, the recipe is perfectly balanced.

While my mother was making turkey tetrazzini with the Cook's Illustrated recipe (verdict: it's a lot drier than the slower but cream-enriched family version), I made two vegetable dishes just before dinnertime from my Urban Italian cookbook.

Artichokes alla contadino:
I was going to get six whole artichokes and trim like the recipe told me to, but they were $5 each. Instead, I got two cans of hearts for a total of $4.69. To make the, I browned pancetta, tossed artichokes hearts in the oil, and then stewed them with tomatoes and white wine. To finish the dish, I threw in olives and a lot of herbs. This was delicious, and our guests gobbled up almost every last bite. When making this with canned artichoke hearts, I would recommend omitting the extra water and cutting the simmering time down to compensate for the fact that the canned hearts are already soft.

Fennel with sambuca and orange:
This was also a big hit. I made a mess of some fennel bulbs and threw them in a pan with most of an onion. After a brief sauté, I deglazed with sambuca, let the vegetables absorb it, and then added garlic, red pepper, chicken stock, orange juice, and some golden raisins. After most of the liquid was gone, I threw in orange zest. The recipe suggested another tablespoon of fresh sambuca at the end, but I was not interested in measuring out additional ingredients by that point. The combination of orange and fennel is surprisingly tasty.

We also had mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. I don't know why my relatives volunteered to bring mashed potatoes, but I guess I won't complain that they did.

For Christmas, I got a 5 qt dutch oven. Time for chili.

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