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It’s become an annual tradition, here at Chez She, that I should spend a considerable portion of the week before Christmas making sure that the freezer is well-stocked with prepared dishes so that there’s plenty on hand to eat during the holidays besides interminable leftovers from the Christmas meal itself (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s an old family maxim that those who befriend us “won’t starve, and will never die of thirst” and, having come this far, I don’t want to let the side down for what remains of my time on this earth.
Usually, when cooking in quantities like this, I leave out a day or two’s-worth to eat “fresh,” and package the rest either into tubs, or single-serving plastic containers with lids, or plastic bags, whatever seems most sensible, and stick it in the freezer.
Even though I’m not expecting much company over the holidays this year, I see no reason to change the habit of, if not a lifetime, at least of a couple of decades, so I’ve been busy. What doesn’t get eaten between now and the New Year (please, God, let there be a New Year), will stand me in good stead for a couple of months, and at least I won’t have to worry about what’s for dinner for a while.
This year, in no particular order (and not expecting to serve them all at once), I’ve worked on:
Cauliflower Cheese: This is a comfort food from my childhood, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it. It’s cauliflower, parboiled until it’s not quite done (“done” for me means firm, and not cooked until it gives up the unequal struggle, as it did for my mother WRT any vegetable), and then dumped in a casserole, smothered in a lovely cheese sauce, sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and then baked until brown. There’s a nice cauliflower cheese recipe on the BBC Good Food website. Here’s mine:
Chili: There’s nothing better on a chilly day than a lovely bowl of chili (see what I did there). Unless it’s a nice bowl of chili with some warm cornbread. This year, I tried Slow Cooker Chili, and it’s delicious. I followed the recipe as written, but did mine in the oven, where I have a ‘slow cooker’ setting, because my own crockpot is too small for the amount made. I cheated on the cornbread, making muffins (because they’re easier to freeze) from Zatarain’s Honey Butter Cornbread mix–just because it’s easy and I like it. Inexplicably, I forgot to take a photo of the finished pot, but I did capture the ingredients:
Tuna Noodle Casserole: This was my first project, and used up some of the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Again, I tried something new and made this one–Turkey Noodle Casserole. It’s very good, although it might be a bit heavy on the tarragon for some. If I make it again, I’ll probably cut that back a bit. Nice and creamy though. Here it is:
Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry: Ah, Nigella! I’ve always been a fan, not for the reasons I understand some of the men I know are, but because I love her full-fat, butter and cream approach (she’s gone considerably more woke lately, but all the cookbooks I have of hers are from the early days). This recipe comes from Nigella Bites, but you can also find it here. I used a butternut squash rather than pumpkin, but otherwise followed the recipe using rather more red curry paste (the last of the stuff I bought in country) than called for. This curry has a particularly nice amount of gravy (juice?) with it, which soaks beautifully into the jasmine rice, and it’s simply delicious. Here’s the finished product:
Beef Stew: This one is currently in progress, so no photo yet. Perhaps I’ll add it later. I’m going with Jamie Oliver’s Basic Stew Recipe, from Jamie’s Food Revolution, but you can find it here. I’ll also make dumplings, although I don’t have any suet (my favorite), so will probably make these, again from Jamie Oliver. Here’s his photo of the stew, just before going in the oven or on top of the stove to cook the dumplings:
Mince Pies: (Mustn’t forget about dessert!) Dad was a terrific mince pie-maker, and I can’t quite replicate his technique or the result, but I have good success with Paul Hollywood’s recipe, although mine always leak and never look as nice as his. I bet they taste just as good, though. And this year even better, as the homemade mincemeat was a gift from my friend Andrea. I stretched it a bit with some chopped-up mandarin orange, apple, and pear, and it was lovely. Here’s a stack of them as they turned out for me:
Ginger Jam Bread and Butter Pudding: Another Nigella recipe, this one also from Nigella Bites, but you can find it here. I adore bread and butter pudding of any sort, and also ginger jam, so this is a heavenly combo. It’s especially good with a jug of English-style custard sauce served on the side (that pretty much has to be made on the day). Absent the custard, serving it with whipped cream or ice-cream ain’t bad either. Or just on its own. Pro-tip: You want a bread that’s got a bit of energy. Squishy “wrapped” bread will not do. Slightly stale bakery bread with a bit of heft to it, and which you slice yourself is much better. Maybe a sourdough-ish sort of texture and consistency. I haven’t even started this yet, so no pics. Here’s Nigella’s:
Cookies: I’m a terrible cookie maker. But I always make a few dozen, and always make the startlingly green, cornflake, marshmallow, “wreath” cookies that were so beloved of my mother-in-law, and which are a family tradition. Here’s the recipe:
Pro-Tip: I wear food service gloves (those plastic baggie things you can get in boxes of 500 at Sams or Costco) when I’m making these. They’re also good to have around when you’re working with very hot peppers. And for relatively simple barn veterinary emergencies. I dispose of them in-between uses, in case you were wondering. (Reminds me of the billboard proclaiming, “Septic Tanks Emptied! Swimming Pools Filled! Not Same Truck!”) There’s no particular safety reason (that I can think of) to wear the gloves when you make these cookies, but if you don’t, no matter how careful you are, you’ll end up with green hands. Also, these are best when made only a day or so ahead of time, and they must go in an airtight tin when they’ve cooled. I separate layers of them with wax paper.
That’s all the further along I am at the moment. And I may stop here. Most of the time, it’s just me, after all. Mustn’t go overboard.
But if, in the best Hogmanay tradition, a tall, dark, handsome stranger first-foots his way into my house carrying a wee dram of whisky and perhaps even wearing a kilt (LOL), in a raging blizzard some time in the wee hours of the morning on January 1, 2021, I’ll take it (this time) as a sign of good fortune. And I’ll be ready.
How are your holiday culinary preparations coming along?Published in