Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas! Apparently an entire month has disappeared in a puff of puppy, bronchitis, travel, guests, 8th-grade basketball, and holiday decorating, shopping, and planning.
You can probably tell that I didn't host Thanksgiving dinner this year (given detailed posts in years previous, a snapshot overview here), but I did bake no-knead bread (crusty, delicious, beyond easy) and reprised the fantastic brussels with pancetta and dried cranberries that I tried for last year's feast. The key to the deliciousness is the pulled-apart brussels, which result in a pile of tender leaves that cook quickly and lose any bitterness. The result is so good, I've been asked to make it again for Christmas. Keep it in mind if you're itching for a new vegetable dish on your holiday table (it's pretty to boot).
I brought the bread and brussels out to Willmar for Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt Marge's lovely home. We had such a beautiful meal - turkey, sage dressing with sausage, mashed potatoes/gravy, sweet potatoes with fresh cranberries, brussels (above), wild rice salad with pine nuts and orange dressing, and bread. For dessert my cousin's wife Amanda made pana cotta with cinnamon apples, a delicious and light end to the feast. Puppy Louis and I spent two nights in Willmar, in fact, hanging with the fam, eating leftovers in the form of Marge's killer panini sandwiches, and spending Friday night at the farm (aka my aunt Mary's lovely home - my aunts have beautiful homes, what can I say?) for another gorgeous meal, this time green salad with pears and mustard vinaigrette, pork chops with cherry sauce, polenta, and green beans, with warm apple cake for dessert. Uff. Da. Clearly not a weekend of moderation, but that's Thanksgiving, and so it goes.
Right before Thanksgiving, John and I had a fabulous time in NYC, in town to celebrate our friend Bartley's birthday. We hit several favorite food highlights - the Gotham salad at Bergdorf Goodman, mushroom barley soup at E.A.T., truffles from La Maison du Chocolat, H&H everything bagels on our way to the airport. New tasties included hand-crafted drinks at the Surrey Hotel's chic new Bar Pleiades and a literal feast (crispy prawns, velvet chicken, orange beef, Peking duck, and totally craveable shrimp spring rolls) at Chinese hot spot Philippe.
Somewhere in there I got a nasty case of bronchitis which cut my cooking down to zero, other than scraping together a quick soup here and there. I'm coming back on line, however, slowly but surely. I made my first pot of New England clam chowder of the season a couple of nights ago, my goodness it tasted good. I make the Cooks' Illustrated version which is brothier and lighter than the typical, and more delicious (I think), I recommend it highly. I also bought a couple of hundred pounds (literally) of high quality beef from my stepmom's nephew Jay Taylor (thank you to my dad for driving it from Montana to Minnesota) and we've enjoyed tenderloin steaks already. And oh, John and I are hosting an open house for his partners on the 20th, part of which I'm having catered, but part of which I'll prepare myself. Stay tuned for menu ideas and recipes as I get my, um, stuff together.
And oh again! I'm not one for much holiday baking, but I am toying with the idea of trying the Star Tribune's 2009 cookie contest winner, Almond Triangles (photo at left by Tom Wallace for the Star Tribune) which I've heard several raves about already. They look decidedly un-moderate yet delicious and best of all, easy - yes! Perhaps for the open house. I'm also getting pressured by Nathan to bake cutout sugar cookies this year - most years he can take 'em or leave 'em (peanut butter kisses are his thankfully easy fave), but when he makes the request...I'm happy to step up. The trick is finding the time to actually prepare them, hmmm, perhaps Sunday afternoon. If we end up with anything interesting, I'll post some pics.
If you're looking for a great holiday gift idea, check out James Beard Award-winning, Minnesota Monthly food columnist/editor Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl's new book, Drink This: Wine Made Simple. If you don't read her column, and Dear Dara blog, you should because not only is she smart and hilarious, she knows food and wine, big time. She was on MPR last week with Rick Nelson (Star Tribune), hosted by Kerri Miller, respresenting an hour of laughs and info generated by three of the smartest, coolest people in Minnesota. Good stuff.
For now, the tree is up, my shopping is more than half done, and I'm feeling unusually on top of things (BIG knock on wood). Which is good, since Puppy Louis needs some extra TLC for a few days - he was neutered yesterday and is stuck wearing the cone of shame for the next week, poor little guy. Hope your holiday plans are falling into place better than Louis'... Good luck stealing some peace (and moderation!) amidst the cooking and baking and wrapping and partying and the general running around like crazy that happens to us all at this time of year. Stay warm!