What worked well, what didn't?
What worked well over the last few days and what didn't? I wasn't on the hook for main dishes, but did make a few things. One of the best things I made was an appetizer for a party. Was the spiced nuts with sugared bacon from the New York Times a few weeks ago. People loved that and I will definitely be making it again. My pizzelles turned out kind of soft, not crispy. Got some good advice on how I might fix that. Thought I'd have time to make another batch this year, but didn't. The advice will definitely be used next time tho. I made financiers with almond flour. I didn't have any premade almond flour so I ground my own in the food processor. May have been a little thicker than usual, more like a macarroon, but people liked them. I made a wine reduction sauce with dried cherries in it from a Susan Spicer recipe for the financiers. I will definitely make that again. Super easy and would be good over ice cream or other things.
What worked and didn't for you?
Tried out new ice cream maker with Giada Delaurentis' Nutella Gelato recipe. Came out well enough, but too sweet. A recipe with half a cup of Nutella in it does NOT need an additional 3/4 cup of sugar!
We ate with my wife's brother and sister-in-law - she's French, been cooking all her life and is pretty good at it, and the goose, the apple-and-chestnut stuffing and the potato gratin were all insanely rich and very good. The wild rice was a major superfluity, as it almost always is in my book, and crunchy and boring, but that could be just me. Her Buche de Noel was as tasty as ever. My contribution was a cabbage gratinée that I've finally figured out how to make party-presentable: cutting the cabbage into more or less uniformly fine shreds, and then braising it with some finely-chopped bacon and little if any extra liquid until it's tender but firm to the bite is the first step. I kept it overnight in a Ziplock, and then when it was time I spread the cabbage out in the gratin pan, poured a little cream over it - maybe a quarter-cup for the large pan - and topped it with a mixture of grated Parmesan and buttered panko crumbs. This went into a 350º oven for about 35 minutes, then got a bit of broiling at the end to brown the crumbs. Maybe a bit more richness than we actually needed given all the rest, but nobody complained.
I decided to do our Christmas turkey with a citrus-sage brine and have to say that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Sure, the turkey was moist had a more intense flavor than it would have without the brine, however, the citrus and sage flavors really didn't penetrate deep enough into the meat (especially the dark meat) for the time and effort involved.
OTOH, the sage stuffing (epicurious), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and apple bread pudding all worked out very well.
I was thrilled with the mushroom gravy that went with a boneless pork loin roast recipe from epicurious.com. Sauteed shallots, garlic and a pound of interesting mushrooms , added chicken broth to pan juices, mixed it all together with added sherry. The gravy was dark and rich and spooned over the meat and mashed potatoes.. Wow! I always agonize over the lack of drippings with pork loins, so this is the answer. Jfood's description of his sauce for the beef seems similar. I guess this is the answer to lean meat.
We always have about 20 or so people at Christmas. My favorite thing to do is a whole rib roast, with 7 ribs. It's usually a 20 pounder. My problem is that I always neglect to write down what worked and what didn't, and so I forget every year, and do everything as if it's the first time!
My recipes said the meat should take 5-6 hours to medium rare, but my convection oven had it ready in 3. I was freaking out, thinking we would be eating cold, overdone roast beast.
I wanted this to be easy. So, I came up with 3 sides that should have been no-brainers: mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and carmelized onions with dried shitake mushrooms, in addition to the gravy from the meat. The problem with all these was that when you make any recipe for 20 people, it takes longer to prepare it.
What worked, however, was putting guests to work. My partner and nephew made the potates, my sister-in-law made the spinach, and my other sister-in-law took over the onions. All this was going on while I made gravy, and my brother-in-law made creamed horseradish.
The miraculous thing was that after sitting for two hours, as everything came together, BIL carved the roast , to find it perfectly rare to medium rare and nicely hot. We sat down to a feast rivaling the Who's in Whoville.
Teamwork and forethought worked. I think next year, I'm just going to do the meat, and ask people to bring sides.
And right now, I'm going to go write everything down.