Last night we held our annual holiday party, and this year we challenged ourselves to come up with twelve dishes inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas.
We didn't want to take anything literally, since it's awfully poultry heavy, and while cannibalism might be an option, lords, ladies, pipers, drummers and maids are hard to find at local markets.
The shopping is all over the map, but we cooked a lot of this each weeked over the last month.
Menu - Holiday Party 2011 064
12 Drummers Drumming
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For this we decided on a pot pie to approximate a drum shape. This was done using Anulpa Singla's Indan Slow Cooker nihari recipe (which I had a pile of in the freezer), plus additional veg and broth simmered with the same spices, and a butter pie crust in ramekins. We used top and bottom crusts, and might have been able to unmold them, but didn't want to risk leaks or soggy bottom crusts. Delicious, topped with a cucumber/mint/cilantro raita. We bought a pile of 6.5 oz ramekins at Big Lots -- these were a little on the large size for what we wanted, but half the price of anything else we'd seen. (Ingredient sources: Costco for brisket, butter and flour)
11 Pipers Piping
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Pipes are flutes, so flautas were a natural for this. I used Bayless' recipe for Pork Tinga from "Authentic Mexican" including the chorizo -- done a couple weeks ago and stored in the freezer. The recipe for flautas must make some really overstuffed flautas, as he specifies a pound of meat per 12. We made about 40 on two pounds of meat (plus sauce made it more like 3) and have as much in the freezer. I made a sauce from avocados, cilantro, lime and cream for garnish (originally had a container of crema, but it tasted nasty, and probably would have been too thick anyway). (Ingredient sources: Carneceria Jiminez for meat).
10 Lords a Leaping
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(didn't catch the photo until they were mostly gone)
Immediately, saltimboca came to mind, since it means "leaps in the mouth." The tough part is sauteeing veal in large quantity and having it not get dried out. We decided to wrap it in phyllo. After sauteeing the whole prosciutto and sage-topped cutlets per the Gourmet cookbook, they were cut into bite-sized pieces and wrapped up with a soft asiago (not traditional, but would help keep things moist), and frozen a couple weeks ago for baking party-day. A reduced veal stock/marsala wine sauce, enhanced with butter, was provided for drizzling. I wasn't sure this was going to work, but it came out nice and tender. My backup plan of using veal franks wrapped in prosciutto and cheese in Pilsbury Crescent Rolls was shot down -- this is the first year we haven't done little wrapped hot dogs at our party. (Ingredient sources: My garden for fresh sage, Fresh Farms Wheeling for almost everything else).
9 Ladies Dancing
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Something leg-oriented seemed to make sense. Since the lower half is already poultry-heavy, drumsticks seemed right out (we thought about drumsticks for #12 too). We went with leg of lamb, marinated in hibiscus per a recipe in the Gourmet cookbook. The book said to take it out of the oven when the internal temp hit 125 -- that seemed a little bleu for my tastes, so I went with 134 and it was perfect. The hibiscus marinade is then reduced in the pan drippings and enriched with butter and a little jelly. Another winner from the Gourmet cookbook -- this book has never let me down. (Ingredient sources: Jewel for the lamb -- it was on sale; Carneceria Jiminez for Flor de Jamaica).
8 Maids a Milking
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Nothing special here: Just a cheese board including an aged gouda (source: Costco), a spiced cheddar, a triple cream St. Something or Other, and a Red Leicester (all from Mariano's). Garnishes included marcona almonds (Costco), candied flowers (a little shop in Nice), and spicy tomato and thyme-grape jams (both from my garden). The triple cream was a hit -- it's gone.
7 Swans a Swimming
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Typical tapas fare, snow-white goat cheese floating in a spanish tomato sauce (san marzano's, cubanelle pepper, onion, garlic, paprika) from some internet recipe research, served with crostini. (Ingredient sources: Cheese from Costco, bread from Jewel)
6 Geese a Laying
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I always do a deviled egg, and this was the obvious spot for it. This is the same recipe I did for the LTH Picnic: Buffalo Wings. Gribbenes were doused with Frank's Red Hot and then toasted briefly to restore crispness. The yolks were combined with Black River blue cheese, buttermilk, lemon juice, black pepper and chives, and garnished with the gribbenes, thin slices of celery and some carrot shreds. (Ingredient sources: Eggs from Costco, cheese from Marianos, chives from Assi Plaza).
5 Golden Rings
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Nope, no onion rings or calamari, too obvious, and hard to keep crisp. For the rings, we went with Calamarata pasta, which look like 1-inch cuts from manicotti, and small sweet peppers, which were also golden in color. The gold also came from saffron, in a cream sauce with lobster stock, brandy which had been soaking with hazelnuts for a few weeks, shallot and garlic. I didn't have a recipe for this, but (successfully) tried to duplicate the flavors at Cafe Seville in San Diego where I had "Shrimp in hazelnut brandy lobster saffron cream sauce" based on internet research on saffron cream sauces. (Ingredient Sources: Shrimp from Assi Plaza, Lobster stock made with cheap frozen whole lobster from H-Mart, little peppers from Costco)
4 Calling Birds
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Turns out "Calling Birds" comes from English "Callie" or "Colly" birds, meaning blackbirds. So i decided to make something with black chicken: Korean tacos. I stewed the chickens (which are awfully scrawny and rather expensive) with shiitakes, carrots, onions, garlic, sugar, sesame oil and gochujang (internet recipe). The non-chicken parts of the stew became dinner -- the black chickens make a great rich broth -- while the bird was shredded and frozen. An alleged 'kogi taco' slaw of napa, bean sprouts and daikon topped that (another internet recipe), plus a sauce of pureed kimchi, vinegar and more sesame oil (merging of a couple Momofuku sauces), with cut-down yellow corn tortillas. (Ingredient sources: Black Chicken, gochujang, sprouts: Assi Plaza; daikon, napa, kimchi: H-Mart)
3 French Hens
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This was the toughest dish to come up with: (a) We wanted a cold salad, since it's nice to have something that doesn't need last-minute cooking, and (b) we wanted it something kind of classic French. I found a recipe for a Cassoulet Salad online, but wasn't thoroughly satisfied with it: no pork, and no crust. White northern beans were cooked and chilled; breakfast sausages were fried up and their fat used to cook diced chicken thighs with some garlic. This was tossed with a dressing of garlic, oil, vinegar, thyme salt and pepper, with some diced tomato and sweet peppers (those same mini peppers as above), and fresh-made garlicky croutons for the "crust". Tasty, and probably a little heartier than I was shooting for, but a good choice. (Ingredient Sources: Chicken and beans from Mariano's)
2 Turtle Doves
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This was another one which gave us some trouble coming up with a dish: I wasn't going to serve turtle or dove. We found recipes for mock turtle soup (oxtail flavored with lemon, anchovies, etc.)... but soup has been a hard sell at our parties. So how about soup dumplings? We found a xiao long bao recipe, gelatinized the broth from the mock turtle soup and combined it with the shredded oxtail and other veg from the soup, and made a hot-water dough. The wrappers came out a little doughy, but were very tasty served with a sherry- and parsley-enhanced mayo, steamed on chinese soup spoons.
(Ingredient sources: Oxtail, soup spoons from H-Mart)
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
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Do you know how expensive partridge is? I found mail-order ones for about $30 per 8-oz partridge. Nuh-uh. Pheasant would have to do (and it was the second-most-expensive meat per pound that we bought, after the black chicken -- yes, the lamb and veal were cheaper!). My thought was something Venetian/Friulian, as they use a lot of pomme fruits there. I smoked the partridge on my WSM after brining with ginger, fennel and pureed canned pears, barding the whole bird with bacon (note to self: bacon used as barding on a smoker isn't the best eating -- most of the fat is gone, leaving a too-smoky, salty jerky). Sliced and frozen last weekend, we reheated it and served on top of polenta squares with a pear mostarda with a little crystallized ginger and dried apricots. Absolutely fantastic. I'd only had pheasant once before, and it's a wonderfully-flavored meat, thankfully I have some leftovers. (Ingredient sources: Pheasant: H-Mart, Pears: Mariano's)
And 12 types of cookies
Cookies - Holiday Party 2011 062 by joelfinkle, on Flickr
Left: Peppermint Stick with Chocolate Filling, Chocolate Crinkle, Cranberry Bars, Pinwheels
Middle: Rosemary Sugar Cookies, Shortbread Squares with Chocolate Filling, Austrian Crescents (from The Baking Sheet, I think -- very rugelach-like), Apple-Butterscotch Oatmeal
Right: Kolachkes (a little non-trad shape), Salted Nut Bars, Soft Ginger Spice Cookies, Nut Crescents
(Ingredient sources: Rosemary from my window box, dutched cocoa from The Spice House)