Another Christmas has come and gone. The meal was prepared, served, devoured, and even the dishes have been put away. But we can still talk a bit about what we served this year, along with some critical evaluations on where we went right and on what could have been a little better.
We always like to go all-out for Christmas dinner, and this year was no exception. My detailed schedule of preparation steps meant that dinner came out right despite a stomach virus, general exhaustion, and other assorted slow downs, even if it did get me the side eye from Paul and Patric. Yes, I made a list. It was actually scary just how organized we were.
Anyway, I know you’re only here for the food, so here it goes.
Warm Pork Rillettes
Sourdough Toast Point, Assorted Pickles
These were rillettes we had made almost a year ago and had frozen in pint jars. The sourdough toast paired well with the creaminess of the meat, and the pickled radish slice, banana pepper, and cornichon provided palate-cleansing tartness. There was general approval and plans for rillette on toast sandwiches were made for later this week.
Mole Pork Belly Croutons
Mixed Greens, Ancho Vinaigrette, Cotija
We got the idea for this salad from the excellent pork belly salad at Restaurant Iris. The pork belly was rubbed with homemade mole negro before being braised in Mexican beer. After it had cooked, we cut it into small strips and fried them in lard. People who didn’t think they would eat pork belly cleaned their plates, so I think we can count that as a success.
This dish could be a lesson in seasonality. Be warned that when you need 5 pounds of tomatillos, they aren’t in season at the end of December, so you may have to get them from multiple sources. We did, and it turned out to be worth the effort. The tangy, ultra-smooth soup paired perfectly with the crispy. starchy mofongo. Once again, there were happy plates all around.
Roast Garlic Mascarpone
These were the biggest hit of the whole meal. Patric thinks we should eat these every night for the rest of our lives. The dates were pitted and filled with mascarpone mixed with roasted garlic. The bacon wrapping them was Newman Farm pepper bacon that was parcooked so that the dates just needed a minute under to broiler to crisp. The result was a delicious blend of creamy, garlicy, sweetness wrapped in smoky, meaty goodness. Okay, the boy may be winning me over on having this one more often.
Frenched Newman Farms Pork Loin
Bacon, Rosemary, and Roast Garlic
Hot Pepper Glazed Carrots and Baby Squash
Caramelized Onion Grit Cake
Sauteed Collard Greens
Whole Wheat Rolls
Yes, there were oohs and ahs from around the table when this one came out. The pork was delicious, flavored simply with rosemary, roast garlic, and bacon. The corn pudding was creamy and rich. The squash and carrots added a note of crispness with their glazing of Jones Orchard pepper jelly giving sweetness. The grit cakes and collard greens were absolutely sinful, and they provided Patric with a lesson in caramelizing onions. The rolls were from Shoaf’s Loaf, and they were a perfect complement to the meal. The only changes we have decided we would make are to trim a little more fat off of the pork loin and to use less pepper jelly on the carrots (we got a little carried away there). Thanks again to Kelly at Restaurant Iris for the idea for the carrots.
Black Olive Spread
Was the cheese plate a little extravagant? Probably, but I really like cheese, and it was Christmas after all. The best pairings were the tomato jam from Dodson Farms with the Stilton and the raisin toast from Shoaf’s Loaf with the Boucheron. The worst disappointment was the head cheese. I know what you’re thinking, but I have had very good head cheese. This was mediocre at best. I’m feeling a quest coming on.
Brown Butter Pound Cake
Chilled Cherry Soup
And finally, dessert. Brown butter pound cake is a sinfully delicious thing, especially when it’s whipped up with love by an angst-filled fifteen-year-old who is having to cream the butter and sugar by hand because he’s the one who put the dishes away and now you can’t find the paddle attachment for the Kitchen-Aid because it’s not where it’s supposed to be and at this point said fifteen-year-old doesn’t think he has ever seen a paddle attachment in his life and…. I think the angst added a special layer of flavor to the cake. Either way, it was lovely. The caramel syrup you see in the photo is actually a very reduced version of the liquid from the rumtopf we started back when strawberries were nice and fresh. We still have a lot of rumtopf to “enjoy”. The cherry soup got mixed reactions. It was sour. It was supposed to be. Half of the table emptied their glasses, the other half took a polite sip and were happy that other people liked it and were superciliously snotty about it. Oh well. (Yes, I was one of the people who liked it; Paul knows I’m talking about him when I say “superciliously snotty”.)
So that was Christmas dinner, punctuated by the opening of presents all around and the well-behaved sighs of a dog who stayed surprisingly well away from the table. The cats, on the other hand, begged freely, especially when there was pork around.
There were surprisingly few leftovers. We will be having grits and bacon later this week, and I am actually considering making brown butter pound cake French toast, but beyond that, we fed our family of 6 well without going too far overboard.
Here’s hoping that you’ve all had a happy holiday and are resting up for New Year’s Eve!