Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Home" for the Holidays

I'm still enjoying my break from work, continuing the trend of lazy dayz.  But not so lazy that I have nothing to talk about:  I'll pick up from when we got home from Edinburgh on Christmas Eve.

First, a little background.  Kerry's family traditionally has a Polish dinner on Christmas eve of perogies and kielbasa.  However, as children, Kerry and her siblings and cousins never enjoyed these delicious Polish dishes, so her parents would order a pizza for the youngsters.  Well, this stuck, and so the Christmas Eve tradition continues to be perogies, kielbasa, and pizza.   If I tried to recreate the tradition, I'd be the only consumer of the former two.  Also, my family tradition was lasagna which, again, is not popular with my better half.

So, this Christmas Eve, since neither of us are big fans of the local takeout options, I tried to make pizza with dough we made and froze beforehand.   Additionally, I used our meat grinder to prepare some "real" Italian sausage (at least how we're used to it back home) from a pork loin.

Throwing some pizza dough around in my sweats 
The final result was tasty, but not so great in the looks department - the crust stuck to my baking sheet.  Amateur mistake, I know.

Christmas morning we slept in, and then we started the festivities with champagne and a bit of squeezed orange juice -  not a true mimosa since I was lacking the Cointreau.

Like I said in the previous post, this was our first (and likely only) Christmas with just the two of us.  We were a bit worried we might feel a bit lonely or homesick, but to be honest, it was really quite nice!  We worked on a Christmas puzzle that I borrowed from a coworker (thanks Carol!).  Christmas puzzles were another family tradition of ours.

For lunch we had tortilla chips and salsa, and then made some almond crescent meltaway cookies.  I forgot to buy powdered (icing) sugar to dust on the cookies, so I attempted to make some in the food processor with normal granulated sugar...haha, not enough power with our little machine.  

After lunch, Kerry's family was starting to wake up back in the Central time zone, so we set up the  Google "Hang out" session to virtually join her family in the hot tub.  This is another annual tradition - Christmas morning you jump in the hot tub with a glass of wine.  I was actually drinking coffee with brandy this year though.

This will be a great year to add to the collection of Christmas morning hot tub photos!
Later, my family on the Pacific coast woke up, so I gave them a call through the Viber smartphone app which works over WiFi or 3G mobile internet (no calling fees).  They spent Christmas up in the mountains east of Seattle.

I must take a moment to say that we were invited to some Christmas dinners by some of our very thoughtful UK friends, and we were truly touched by the invitation.  However, in the end we decided to make the most of this simple holiday, and maybe even start some traditions of our own.

For dinner I made a real steak.  I caught a great deal on a thick bone-in ribeye.  When I say thick I'm talking 2.5 inches, over 1 kg.  Basically this would be a standing rib roast, but with only one rib, it was cooked on its side.  I served it with some greens in my signature style - steaming them in the juices of the steak.   Instead of offering a steak sauce on the side, the diner eats the greens that are just packed with flavor.  You read it here first, folks!

And now for the best part of a UK Christmas - the PUDDING!  This year I simply bought one from Asda, but I did spend a few extra for the "luxury" version.  I did a bit of research online and with coworkers to know that it should be served with either custard or brandy butter, so I made both.  Custard is simply being egg yolk tempered with a hot mixture of cream, sugar, and vanilla (hah, hard to go wrong there!).   Brandy butter being exactly what you think - brandy + butter + sugar whipped together.  I got a bit too generous with the brandy and the whole mixture broke, so it was more like the worst cocktail experiment ever, but it still tasted good!

The pudding was steamed in a large pot for 2 hours, and then the best part:  you pour warm brandy over it, turn off the lights, and light it on fire!

Hah, all my brandy just ran around the edges, so a bit underwhelming.
I'll say it now - this must be one of the best desserts I've ever had.   The pudding is a dense cake made with molasses (treacle) and mixed with dried fruits and nuts that has been soaked with brandy and aged 6 months.  The fire from the brandy toasted the outer crust.  The flavor is very rich, moist, boozy, and incredibly complex.  And then you add extra cream and butter!   This is the tradition I'll be bringing back - I'll make mine from scratch as soon as we get settled so it can age as long as possible.

On Boxing Day, most places were still closed, so we finished our puzzle then took a long walk along the canal near our house.  This is the first time I've actually explored Sandiacre.

Geese were expecting bread or something, spoiled brats

The rest of the week remained low key, but on the 29th we went to London.  This is London Trip #3 and is best left for another post.  It was a quick trip, but I fear I may go off on some rants if I try to write it all now, so stay tuned for that first thing next year.  In the mean time, have a wonderful New Year's Eve, and an amazing 2013.

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