Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas dinner

This year's Christmas gathering was a little smaller than usual with Laura, Mitch, and Midori all back in Chicago. Normally, Laura and I do most of the kitchen work on holidays, but this year I put my mom to work as sous chef. On Christmas day, my parents had their friends, the Mike and Liza Morell over for dinner. I don't remember my parents being big wine connoisseurs when I was back home, but I suspect those to may have something to do with the increasing quality of the wine that they consumer. One of their sons is a vintner and the other a chef, so its a real foodie family.

The Christmas menu included flank steak stuffed with olives, pine nuts, and currants, braised escarole with fried garbanzos and garlic chips, mustard crusted, roasted fingerling potatoes, and a beet salad with arugula and goat cheese. The first two dishes come from a Tom Douglas cookbook that I got for Christmas a couple years ago. An online recipe can be found here. A couple notes about the recipe: unless you like things very rare, cook for a couple of extra minutes. As you can see from the picture above, it's pretty much black and blue in the middle. I like it this way, but I suspect most people don't. Also, frying the garbanzo beans is a bit of a pain in the ass if you don't have deep fryer. One approach might be to toss the garbanzos in olive oil and salt and than place on a cookie sheet under a broiler, shaking frequently, until they crisp up. I'll try this if I ever make the dish again. The potato recipe was pretty good, but the crust burns easily and it is a bit heavy on the mustard, so you probably need a bit less mustard and you need to toss the potatoes around more than the recipe recommends. The beet salad was the one orginal thing that I made for this meal. Or, at least, I wasn't going off of someone else's recipe. Its really simple, and quite tasty. Here's the recipe if you want to try it at home.

red beets (I think I used two large beets above)
orange (juice and zest...remember to zest before you juice)
taragon (optional)
good quality olive oil
red wine vinegar
kosher salt
coarsely ground pepper
goat cheese

Cut the tops off of the beets, clean them off, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap them in foil. Cook in the oven at 375F until soft. This should take an hour or so. After an hour, you can unwrap the foil a bit and poke the beets with a pairing knife. When its done, the knife will slide in with minimal resistance. It could take as long as two hours....I really can't remember.

When the beets are done, let them cool a bit, then rub off the skin and dice to the desired size. To rub off the skin, just use a big wad of paper towels. This will allow you to get going while the beets are still hot and will keep you from staining your hands red.

In a bowl, toss together the beets with about two tablespoons of roughly chopped tarragon, the juice from half of an orange, a teaspoon of orange zest, and a dash or red wine vinegar and olive oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together about one tablespoon of the juice from the other half of the orange, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a bit of olive oil (start with one or two tablespoons and adjust to taste), and salt and pepper. Toss this vinaigrette with the arugula (only use a little bit, you don't want to drench the salad) and arrange it on a serving plate with the beets and goat cheese.

You can make the beets well ahead of time, and at the last minute, dress the greens and combine the ingredients.

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