<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\0757793856\46blogName\75Orangette\46publishMode\75PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\46navbarType\75BLACK\46layoutType\75CLASSIC\46searchRoot\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/search\46blogLocale\75en\46v\0752\46homepageUrl\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/\46vt\75-5071095333567389549', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

12.28.2005

The two days of Christmas

When I was a little girl, Christmas was a spiny, sparkly tree floating on a sea of shiny, sparkly boxes. I’d wait 364 long days for a few hours of stockings and presents, a morning so exhilarating and so exhausting that I’d spend the afternoon comatose on the green shag carpet of our living room, my arms locked around the day’s best loot. But like most things, from monkeys to morals, Christmas evolves. In my case, it evolved from the living room to the kitchen, from the twinkly tree to the blue-flamed stove, and from tissue-wrapped stuffed bears to foil-tented roasted turkeys. If nothing else, that’s got to be proof of some sort of intelligent design—or at the very least, of good breeding.

In my family, Christmas takes place in the kitchen. You’ve heard the old saying: give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile. Well, give us Christmas, and we’ll turn it into 48 hours in the kitchen, a 25-pound turkey, five quarts of asparagus soup, four dozen scones, three gallons of egg nog, two dozen biscuits, two fillets of beef Wellington, a case of Veuve Clicquot, and a bushel of spinach, creamed.

This year we descended fifteen-strong upon the home of my brother David and his wife Carée, and though the house was plenty roomy, we made quite a crowd in the kitchen. In the weeks beforehand, David set the ground rules—Christmas Eve would be beef, and Christmas Day turkey—and we set out planning menus, making lists, and calling dibs. David and Carée would take care of the beef, the turkey, the oysters, wine, champagne, egg nog, cheeses, creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and snacks, should we need them. My sister Lisa would make a cream of asparagus soup, cranberry sauce, two flans, stuffing, a chocolate-pecan tart, and of course, her Scottish scones. My mother would make her favorite bread pudding: layers of buttered bread sandwiching mincemeat and marmalade, doused with cream and eggs, baked until puffy as a quilted pillow, and slathered with hard sauce. My niece Hillary would make silky salt-roasted fennel with olives and herbs, a grapefruit-pomegranate tart, a salad with arugula and pears, and for breakfast, lemon-ricotta pancakes and truffled egg toasts. I offered biscuits, butternut squash purée with maple syrup, and leeks with cream and tarragon, baked to limber and lush. And for his part, my nephew Brian would wander the house with his new kid-friendly cookbook, pointing at the pictures of paella and folding down pages.

Needless to say, we had food enough for twelve days of Christmas, but being of strong constitution and eager appetite, we made quick work of it in two. We shared oven mitts and clinked glasses; we spilled, toasted, and went teary-eyed; and come bedtime, we each slept as though we’d eaten for three—which we had, for better or for worse.

And 360-some days from now, we’ll do it all over again. In the meantime, I plan on a 2006 full of excuses for champagne and a full kitchen, menus and lists and, first of all, those leeks. In fact, I’d be baking up a batch for New Year’s Eve, had I not already called dibs on a different sort of dish, one involving a party dress—black! strapless! with feathers!—and Balthazar, Brandon, and a very Big Apple.


Leeks with Cream and Tarragon
Adapted from Fresh from the Farmers’ Market


We served these leeks with beef Wellington, but they would be a lovely compliment to any roasted meat. The original recipe calls for a full teaspoon of tarragon, but being easily overwhelmed by its assertive flavor, I prefer my version with a bit less. I want just a whiff of tarragon, just enough to lend intrigue to the leeks’ unctuous bath of broth and cream.

8 leeks, each about ¾ inch in diameter
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup homemade or good-quality chicken broth
½ - ¾ tsp minced fresh tarragon
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut off the dark green tops of the leeks, leaving only the white and pale green stalk. Trim the roots away, but leave the base intact. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, leaving about 1 ½ inches together and uncut at the root end, so that the leeks will remain intact in the oven. One by one, rinse each leek under cool water, taking care to wash away any dirt trapped between its layers. Arrange the leeks in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, chicken broth, tarragon, and a pinch or two each of salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the leeks, and slide them into the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes; then remove the leeks from the oven and turn them over with tongs. Return them to the oven and continue baking for an additional 30 to 45 minutes, until they are lightly golden and very tender and have absorbed most of the creamy sauce. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: about 6 servings

18 Comments:

Blogger ACB said...

Oh my god, I feel like I'm ready for another Christmas meal, just reading that! Yummmm...

I'm not a leek fan, but when do we get the bread pudding recipe? My father would love it. Bread pudding AND mincemeat?! Too good.

We had lefse with salmon and all the trimmings for Christmas Eve dinner. It was a nice change from the heavy meals we often have, and left plenty of room for cookies!

Happy New Year, and enjoy NYC! I'll be there in time for the January sales in SoHo... =]

11:10 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger The Cookie Club said...

oh my gosh, i love the look of those leeks! i think i'm going to give your banana cake a try tomorrow.

11:30 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Oh Molly I would so buy any cook book or anybook for that matter you wrote. I can see the images in my mind after I read your enteries. I am glad you had a wonderful Christmas.

7:31 AM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Fran said...

The leeks look so delcious. Will have to try that. Thank you.

2:17 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Shauna said...

Yum, my dear. Such a sensory explosion of taste and textures. I love how decadent Christmas now feels as adults, how it's not so much about the presents as the memorable mouthfuls. I hope it was wonderful, wonderful.

5:31 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Rose said...

Your family meals sound so delish and delightful to the palate.

Have a great time in NYC in your black strapless number!

I'll be doing a bit of Big Apple partying myself down in LES :-)

9:23 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger yoony said...

wow, sounds like a wonderful feast! im getting hungry just thinking about all those beautiful dishes!

8:47 AM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger kickpleat said...

wow, that christmas meal sounds so incredible! i'm beyond envious.

11:04 AM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

ACB, you know, I'm almost ready for another Christmas meal myself...maybe another slice of turkey with giblet gravy, a dollop of butternut puree, a wedge of chocolate-pecan tart, and certainly another heap of bread pudding! And while I'm at it, I wouldn't mind a slice of your salmon too. And speaking of so much gluttony, I will most certainly find a way to get you my mother's recipe for mincemeat bread-and-butter pudding! Absolutely.

Cookie Club, how was the banana cake? Hope you found it as delicious as I do...

Foodiechickie, your comment is a Christmas present in itself! If I ever need a favorable reference, my dear, you may be hearing from me. In the meantime, have a very happy New Year.

Fran, you're very welcome.

Shauna, "decadent" is definitely the operative word here. It was wonderful, although I must admit that it's also nice to return to the simple things, like the roasted fennel I just ate with lunch. That's pretty wonderful too. Happy New Year to you, my dear.

Rose, I hope your LES celebrations will be fueled by something tasty. Happy New Year!

Yoony, you're not the only one! I got hungry just writing about this stuff. It's dangerous!

Kickpleat, it was pretty incredible. I feel very lucky to be a part of such a food-centric family.

1:01 PM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous Nicky said...

Dear Molly,
Wow, that sounds like a real Christmas feast! Something the way you describe food, goes straight to my tummy and creates a feeling of hunger each and every time! How do you do it? 'Wish you all the best for 2006 and for us a lot of more enjoyable posts from Orangette ;)

7:32 AM, January 01, 2006  
Blogger Ruth said...

Molly, thank you for sharing your wonderful feast with us - it sounds amazing and I think I just gained 5 pounds reading about it.

I wish you a wonderful 2006 and look forward to all you have to share with us.

6:14 AM, January 02, 2006  
Anonymous Ivonne said...

First of all Molly, Happy New Year!

Secondly, will your family adopt me? I thought my family did a pretty good job in the food dept. at Christmas but your description is incredible!

I can't wait to try the leeks!

All the best in 2006 and keep blogging!

4:58 PM, January 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy new year! Any family that enjoys Veuve Cliquot (sp?) at christmas is my kind of family. Enjoy the new Year

1:57 AM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, Nicky. Happy New Year--and happy hunger pangs--to you too!

Ruth, I'm delighted to share my family's feast. Goodness knows there was plenty to go around! Happy 2006 to you.

Ivonne, I'll see what I can do about that adoption. In the meantime, enjoy the leeks, and happy eating in the New Year!

Anonymous, thank you for catching my spelling error! I can never seem to remember that pesky "c"! Maybe, for spelling's sake, I should resolve to buy more of the ole Veuve in 2006. That'll teach me, no doubt. Happy New Year!

8:52 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Pille said...

Happy new year, Molly! Your leek and tarragon tart looks absolutely delicious - I have a feeling I'll be making that sometimes in 2006. Sooner rather than later:)

3:05 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Pille said...

Molly, me again. I meant "leek and tarragon dish". I haven't spoken English for 3 weeks (got back from Estonia late last night), so my English is a bit rusty at the moment:)

3:07 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Pille, your English sounds anything but rusty! Happy New Year to you, my dear. I hope your visit to Estonia was a good one, and that you're staying warm despite the cold, windy weather back in Scotland...

9:19 PM, January 08, 2006  
Blogger webhill said...

grapefruit pomegranate tart?? Help!

6:29 PM, January 11, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home