Thursday, November 26, 2009

Planning for Christmas Dinner

We were anticipating a slightly uncomfortable Thanksgiving. To everyone's surprise, we had a great Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was in a good mood. I made a drinking game beforehand, to aid in digestion of comments like, "I wish I were dead," "Why you no get married?", "Stupid Americans!", and "You put on weight!" And then...none of these things were said.

Anyway, I get to be sort of in charge of Christmas dinner. Any suggestions? I want to make things that are in season and interesting. However, I have a bunch of picky eaters to deal with. Here's a list of things that various members of my family claim not to like:

1) Beans (but some people like them)
2) Cinnamon
3) Sage
4) Too many exotic spices
5) Cranberries
6) Cauliflower
7) Spinach
8) Squash--most of the time
9) Sweet potatoes (but some people love them)
10) Ginger

I'll add to this later....basically, every time I look at a recipe there's some major component of it that makes me say, "Oh wait! Soandso really hates one of those things!" Sometimes, I sneak it in anyway (maybe in a smaller amount), or just make it for the other people at the table.

Here's what everyone does seem to like:

1) Bacon
2) Brussels sprouts
3) Beets

Well, at least #1 and #2 go together.

Anyway, I just want to make some interesting desserts and a bunch of vegetable dishes. Maybe something with grains isn't a bad idea either. I think I'll try the Autumn Potato Salad recently posted on (with some other roasted fall vegetables) and some kind of soup. I currently have from the library Love Soup, and I made Beet Soup with Ginger from the Holiday Soups section of the book. (I didn't make the vegetable stock the way she does--I just steeped some celery and thyme in water while the rest of the stuff was in the oven. Instead of just boiling the vegetables--including those I use to make stock--I roasted them in a cast iron skillet in the oven (with about two tablespoons of olive oil.) (A parsnip, a carrot, an onion, and a huge beet. And some brussels sprouts, because I forgot to buy cabbage for the soup.) This is not only a good way to make soup if you're lazy; everything gets a nice caramelized flavor. The hot water I used to clean the pan was added to the soup.

I also made roasted brussels sprouts (normally I pan-fry them and grate cheese over the top of them.) They were okay. I overcooked them and they reheated poorly.

I made a cranberry sauce recipe from Rachel Ray. It was a big hit (with the people who actually eat cranberry sauce.) I will make that again next year; why mess with a good thing?

I'll probably test recipes each week (since I like to cook and have all this free time). I kind of want to try the Persimmon Soup next.
I've been told that I definitely have to make brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner, and I plan to make them with bacon and--if I can find decent dried ones--figs.
I plan to make all the pie crusts from scratch, all whipped cream from scratch, and some type of ice cream (from scratch!)

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