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Jan 3, 2005 10:12 AM

Holiday triumphs/disasters

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So who made a terrific dish or a terrible one over the holidays?

For New Years Eve I was elected to do the fish - both fried and baked.

My extended family has pretty basic tastes so for the baked I layered Orange Roughy with thin slices of tomatoes, onions, and lemons added capers and some salt and pepper.

For the fried fish I made a basic beer batter and opted to fry outside (10 lbs of fish) to avoid making the house smell for days. The first batch of fried fish lost all of it's batter so I waited until the oil was hotter. The rest of the fish worked out quiet well and I warmed it in the oven on parchment paper.

The only problem was that with the cold air outside and the constant temperature fluctuations I think the oil (which was new peanut oil) became rancid by the end of the frying process - which made me feel like I never wanted to smell fish again.

I gathered up all of the food and brought it to my sister house where I avoided the kitchen and fish smell. There wasn't enough space in the oven for the baked fish so I told her to go ahead and cook it in the microwave. When all was ready I noticed some puzzled looks on the people who tried the baked fish. Apparently my sister's new convection microwave was on the wrong setting and although the fish was not overdone, it wasn't flaky like white fish should be. By the end of the dinner all of the fried fish was gone and the baked remained virtually untouched - even as a take home leftover. (My family is typically a bunch of vultures when it comes to leftovers)

Next year I'll let someone else handle the traditional Christmas Eve fish.

I had much better luck with the New Years Day dinner. My husband made his 'famous' turkey mole while I was left to the side dishes. I made a guacamole and a chick pea, lentil, hominy stew. The latter turned out to be very good but filling enough to be a meal on it's own. Tonight I'll cook up the leftovers and throw in some lime black bean chicken sausage.

What were your winners/losers?

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  1. I had success with the damp lemon-almond cake from Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess." I didn't wrap it in foil for the recommended two days, but it was damp and delicious anyway -- no leftovers there. It was served with my mother's signature whipped cream (cream, Cointreau, dessicated coconut).

    Also, made some thin, chewy cookies which were originally supposed to be "cream-cheese gems," but I substituted fresh goat cheese and they were fabulous. Butter, goat cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla.

    I baked both with spelt flour -- it's popular and easy to find in Germany, where I live.

    2 Replies
    1. re: gus

      I made galleygirl/Laurie's pear cake. We were having a lot of people and wanted to make sure that everyone could have a slice of Bouche and cake, so we made two- one in an 8 inch pan and one in a 9. The general consensus from people on the board was to take it out underdone if there was a question. I was a little too afraid about overcooking and so the 8 inch one was a little too underdone. The sides were fine but the middle was not cooked enough. The 9 inch was in the oven for about the same amount of time but came out perfectly (because it was slightly thinner I think.) The pears also didn't really disapear into the batter as much as I had anticipated. Overall, they were both great though, and luckily the 9 inch served enough people that only close family members had to eat the undercooked version.

      1. re: Meils

        I, too, made the Pear Tart after reading so many postings on it! I made the 8" and was afraid it wouldn't turn out well as the pears seemed very hard and tasteless (Bosc, as I recall) in spite of having bought them a week before! I also threw in parts of two VERY ripe pears (Comice) that were so ripe they wouldn't even slice properly. To my amazement, it all turned out perfectly and was quite moist and delicious....and SO easy, plus it looked nice! I sprinkled it thoroughly with vanilla sugar before baking and cooked it for 45 min. which seemed just right as far as still being VERY nice and moist yet the toothpick came out clean.

    2. I had a New Year's day brunch and made a Quiche from the Southern Living Magazine which I layered canadian bacon on the bottom of the pie dish like a crust and poured in the filling of brie cheese and baked alltogether. Not one piece left and everyone raved about it. Super simple to make and so elegant looking and tasting.

      Brunch was a huge success.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Roxy

        That sounds great - can you paraphrase the recipe please.

      2. I made the braised short ribs that everyone raves about on this board. (The simple one with wine and tomato paste). I didn't think it was that great. Next time I will make short ribs with the brisket recipe Nina W posted a while ago with prunes and Knorr oxtail soup mix, substituting the brisket for the short ribs.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rkn

          I also made short ribs--maybe from the same recipe, with wine and whole grain mustart. I have made them before with 1/2 the meat (the usual 4 lbs)and loved them. This time I did it with 8 lbs and doubled the recipe. The sauce was thinner than I would have liked. Nobody seemed to mind though, I got the most completment on those. The best part about this was I started it in the morning and didn't have to do much until it was time to eat.

          I also made scallops with porcini, onions and brandy and served them on top of pea sauce. The scallops were cooked perfectly but the pea sauce wasn't quite hot enough. I had made it earlier in the day and nuked it to warm up but obviously not enough. I think the taste was enough to make people happy though. Also, this dish looks so elegent when plated. I defintely will do it again.

        2. The Blintz Cheese Puff from Sundays at Moosewood was great (again).

          1. For a friend's party made the Cake Bible's Buche de Noel, which I found aggressively so-so. The cake was so delicate it was barely noticeable next to the whipped cream in was rolled in, much less the ganache it was coated with. This is disappointing, as I was thinking of trying it as a Buche de Pesach for Passover. If anyone has a somewhat assertive, flourless, rollable cake they really like, pls share. I think I'd flavor the whipped cream next time, too.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Tatania

              I made Dionne Lucas's flourless chocolate roll in lieu of Buche de Noel recipe (decorated in the Buche de Noel manner). I much prefer it.

              The recipe I like is in Maida Heatter book on Cakes, but Epicurious has Gourmet recipe that looks quite similar


              I usually use Grand Marnier to drizzle the cake (makes it extra moist) in addition to flavoring the whipping cream.

              1. re: Tatania
                Jeff Roberts


                The chocolate roulade in "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" is amazing. It is basically a bittersweet chocloate ganache folded into a meringue, which is baked. When cool, you spread the cake with cognac-flavored whipped cream, and then sprinkle the roll with cocoa or powdered sugar. Very delicious, although not particularly spring-like.