Hosting Christmas

When I decided I didn’t want to go anywhere for Christmas, I didn’t intend a big to do about the holiday. But if we were home, I thought I’d invite Mom and Dad over for dinner. I said the same to Val and Bill, and much to my surprise everyone accepted. After figuring out how many we’d have for dinner, I then had to figure out what to make. Bill and Dad aren’t big on vegetables, Val doesn’t eat a lot of meat, Bob is still limiting grains and wheat, and I’m just fussy in general. So I decided to do a variety of experiments in hopes that everyone would have something they liked. And if everything failed miserably, there was dessert and the Indian restaurant down the street.

For the main dish I went with pork loin roast. It looked good at Whole a Foods the weekend before. I plucked a ton of herbs from the garden and chopped them with garlic and olive oil to make a paste/marinade.

20131226-203152.jpg Oregano, thyme and rosemary made a really fragrant marinade. Then, and this was the fun part, I wrapped the pork roast in pancetta. Yep. Pork wrapped pork.

20131226-203331.jpg I let this set in the fridge overnight so the flavors soaked in and melded really nicely. I cooked it with a little white wine and vegetable broth for steam. Once it came out of the oven it looked like this

20131226-203435.jpg The fat from the pancetta rendered and basted the pork roast so it was moist and tender. This was a big hit with all the boys.

For sides I went one traditional and one out there sounding. For the traditional I made stuffing. Mom gave me leftover corn bread she froze after Thanksgiving and I used a loaf do bacon bread I made the week before for the bread base.

20131226-203646.jpg It was a little humid so I ended up using the oven at 200 for 45 minutes or so to dry the bread out. To this I added more pork (rendered pork belly specifically), opinions, celery and apples. Thyme and oregano completed the herbs and I used two eggs and vegetable stock for the liquid. I let it set overnight then baked it for an hour. I thought it ended up too wet, but Mom and Dad both said it was very good and the right texture for stuffing, so I’ll call it successful.

Now for the vegetables. Originally I wanted to go with chard, but the farmer’s market didn’t have any Saturday. But they had really beautiful kale. I love kale. Val loves kale. Mom is fine with kale, but it thought it’d be a hard sell to the boys. My figuring was that they would have pork, so we could have kale. I scoured some recipes and found one recipe that swore the salad was totally not bitter and really mellow. I admit I didn’t believe it at all, but wanted to try it anyway. So first thing Christmas morning I chopped up two small bunches of kale and then added a quarter cup crasions, a quarter cup golden raisins and some pine nuts I toasted (1/3 cup maybe). I substituted sherry wine vinegar for the rice wine vinegar but otherwise kept it the same. I added Parmesan right before serving. Somehow I totally forgot to get a picture of this and there were no leftovers, so the only picture I have is of the final plate.

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Oh … and I made gravy. I took a tablespoon of chopped shallot and sautéed that in a pat of butter. Then I added a teaspoon of flour and made a nice toasty roux. To that I added the pan juices and some light vegetable broth. It came together rather nicely.

Mom came prepared with desserts. She made cookies for a few mornings in a row when the temperatures were a tad chilly.

20131226-205303.jpg She made a fabulous cheesecake with lemon curd that was so good and I am still enjoying it.

20131226-205403.jpg And, as I promised Val, I made a variety of brittles.

20131226-205444.jpg Sesame, almond and pumpkin seed. Bob likes the almond best.

All in all it was a very lovely Christmas. And the weather cooperated so we could eat outside and enjoy the beautiful day.

20131226-205622.jpg That may seem like rubbing it in, but in all honestly the patio table is the most comfortable place for six people. The kitchen is very cramped and we sacrificed the dining room to make the space Bob’s office so … outside Christmas dinner it was.

20131226-205825.jpg The babies were so tired from hosting they needed a rest. Except Miss Leia. She is ready for more company.

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