Sunday, December 11, 2011

Monday Bites - Nice Nosh!

I'm not cooking this Christmas......

but apparently that doesn't mean that I leave off one of my very favorite Christmas traditions:

leafing through old magazines and excavating those recipes that I always dreamed of trying and never got round to.  OK, I know, caviar and toast doesn't strictly qualify as a "recipe".  But it's still a yummy idea is it not?  

Who knew years ago that a Christmas tamale recipe would come in very handy once I'd landed in L.A., as this is a very traditional Christmas specialty in this part of the world.  

But let me be honest.  It's nice to consider festive main courses for the occasion but the really true excitement for me of the season has got to be the Christmas world of DESSERT.

Truffles seem to have been supplanted in the popular American imagination by macarons, but really, what is nicer, and easier, for a Christmas buffet or cocktail party than these?  It's a little like making mudcakes, isn't it - you can get your hands dirty and have a little snow dance under shakings of cocoa powder....... DON'T buy those stale, torpid, slightly greasy things in boxes that announce their ubiquity at the ends of all the supermaket aisles!!!!!!!  There is NOTHING like fresh (cream) truffles.  Don't hold back.  Yes. Do try this at home with your children.   It's something you will never forget.

Christmas pie or Christmas cake?  My mother always favored cherries jubilee, but if I am at home in the States, it will always be cake for me.  (In England, without fail, it's Christmas pudding.  I adore it with a generous slathering of brandy butter!)  There's no doubt that some kind of white cake blends in beautifully with all your Christmas decorations.  And will look drop-dead festive.

We are great lovers of coconut cake in our family, but this one could just be peppermint.  And I like the idea of a very very pale pink frosted cake with a white inside.  If I were to make such a pink and white cake I would have to pass on the peppermint and do something plainer, or with nuts in it like a German hazelnut torte with a whipped cream frosting, or a repeat of the Pierre Herme derived recipe from last Christmas' cupcakes:  (raspberry, lychee and rosewater flavors, that I posted about here). 

I really truly think that Christmas flavors should be special.  And not something that you might readily eat at any other time of the year.

Now, strictly speaking, I'm not really an ice-cream and cake girl.  I hate actually, the way the ice cream tastes so cold and overpowers the cake flavor, but then so quickly melts, and then makes the cake soggy and gets all soupy and sticky with crumbs floating in it.  Arrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh.  Really, what a mess.  SO NOT special and festive to me.

Instead, I much prefer a Baked Alaska.  We used to make this at a restaurant I worked in.  It's an old school idea, but one that's really quite easy to pull off (especially if you're not afraid of handling a blow torch.)  And it's always exciting to bring one of these into a crowded room of people, whether or not you've set the center alight.  The ice cream and the cake stay at mostly the same temperature and because of the insulating meringue coating, soften nicely for eating but stay firm enough to hold their consistency but separateness.  i.e., no ice cream in your cake, and no cake in your ice cream!

These are something I never would have thought twice about on the East Coast, but now in L.A. with lovely fresh dates available (I'm almost certain, even at this time of year) these would be light and lovely and easy to make to serve with espresso.

(Photos mostly vintage Martha Stewart, then British Homes and Gardens
 and Marie Claire Maison.)

Finally, pate de fruits.  Who doesn't love tangy acidic delicate fruit flavors that will still melt on your tongue in the middle of a cold and dark festive season.  With brilliant sunny colors?  I can't think of anything better.  It's a lovely alternative to the "too-much-is-never-enough" ethos of Christmas partakings.  

Do you get really inspired by Christmas cooking and try always new things, or do you go with very traditional recipes that go back in your family?   Do you have a signature recipe that everybody always asks for?  After all the cooking, do you feel like eating?

What does Christmas mean to you?  Is it all about the food?  The family gatherings?  The presents and the kids?  The Christmas lights?  Or a big old rest at the end of the year?

1 comment:

  1. GREAT post MP... I think I have met my dessert buddy - I do not like my ice cream touching my cake or pie either! Eew mushy-mushy mess on a plate, no thank you.

    Tradition? Italian cookies. Bruta mi buoni (sp?) "Ugly but good" or, chocolate balls as we call them. Made with cocoa and coffee, nuts if you like, and a little delicate frosting on top. yummm