New Year's Eve dinner at Tristan's family's home in Arlington, VA
Happy New Year everyone!
I couldn't jump into 2011 without paying a bit of homage to 2010. It was an eventful year of cooking experiments, dinner parties, culinary classes, new cookbooks and a good deal of travel. But one of my favorite parts was going to New York over the holidays. Why? Because I got to spend time with my family and eat some darn good holiday food.
As tradition dictates, we always make an Italian Seven Fish Stew on Christmas Eve. It has a spicy, flavorful broth of clam juice, stock and tomatoes and is chock-full of scallops, haddock, flounder, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams. The only necessary accompaniment is a loaf of good bread (I strongly suggest making some No-Knead) to sop up all those glorious juices.
Unlike the anticipated main course, dessert on the 24th is up for discussion. This year my mom made mini pavlovas with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Named after the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, the dessert lives up to its muse: light, airy and elegant (the meringue shells were meant to simulate her tutu).
Christmas morning at our house always begins with a breakfast of Züpfe, the beloved bread of Switzerland. Back in the home country it's eaten on Sundays with butter, honey and jam and perhaps a soft boiled egg. Nowadays, for those of my family in America, it only makes an annual appearance over the holidays.
No two Züpfe recipes are alike and in my humble (and certainly biased) opinion, my grandmother's was the very best. She took great pride in her work and guarded her recipe like a Swiss Guard in front of the Vatican. When she passed away, it took years of experimentation and refinement for my father to develop his version, which, we all concur, is the closest we've ever had to the original.
Our traditional Christmas dinner is unabashedly English-themed: roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. My favorite part, hands down, is the pudding. Similar to a popover, it has a puffed, golden exterior with an eggy, custard-like middle. Back in old England, it used to be a filler dish for poor people who couldn't afford much meat. Also called "dripping pudding," it was made by placing a simple batter of flour, milk and eggs under the roasting meat in order to catch all the savory drippings. Despite its humble beginnings, it's easy to see why Yorkshire pudding has found a place at a New York Christmas table.
No English meal would be complete without a proper trifle. My mom makes a wonderfully traditional version with sherry soaked cake, layered with egg custard, fruit and whipped cream. If this doesn't say festive, I don't know what does.
I can't think of a better way to end a year than with family, food and friends. I'm already looking forward to repeating it in 2011.