Ever tried to get a good picture of three little boys, ages four and younger? Harder than herding cats. Enjoy a few of my favorite outtakes from our attempt at a Christmas card picture.
We’re two days from Christmas now and moving into full Santa mode. We’ve been hosting Christmas for as long as we’ve lived in this house, which was my husband’s grandmother’s house for 46 years, until we bought it and made it our home. Christmas has always been hosted in this house and nothing makes me happier than continuing that tradition.
But what we don’t have is a traditional Christmas dinner. Planning new menus is part of the fun for me. So, each year I like to mix things up with a little something different. This year, we’ll be entertaining sixteen of our dearest friends and family members for dinner.
At first I was thinking of serving roast rack of lamb with a cranberry horseradish sauce. But lamb is one of those foods that not everyone enjoys, so it didn’t seem like the wisest choice for such a large crowd. (I’m saving that idea for my New Year’s Eve dinner!)
I considered making the Braised Beef Short Ribs with Figs and Red Wine that I made for a dinner party a few months ago. It’s easy, delicious, and can be made a day ahead of time. But more than anything, the thought of hearing my guests singing, “Oh, bring us some figgy short ribs! Oh, bring us some figgy short ribs…” amused the heck out of me. Alas, my grocery store hasn’t been well-stocked with short ribs lately and I feared I wouldn’t be able to get enough.
Ultimately, I’ve decided to make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon. It’s widely enjoyed, can be fully made a day ahead of time, reheats like a dream, and is an affordable option for a such large crowd. And it can be eaten without steak knives, which is particularly convenient since I don’t own 16 steak knives.
On the side I’ll be serving poached pear and pomegranate endive ‘salads’, quiche Lorraine in a homemade all-butter crust, roasted asparagus, buttered egg noodles with fresh parsley, scalloped potatoes au gratin, garlic peas, cheddar garlic biscuits, and French bread.
With homemade butter.
Did I tell you about the lie I told on Thanksgiving? We had just sat down at the table to enjoy our feast. My guests were admiring the array of homemade goodies, including a from-scratch green bean casserole with homemade crispy onion straws on top. And that’s when the lie came bursting out of my mouth. I’m not even sure why I said it. But out it came, “I even made the butter!”
But I hadn’t made the butter. It was just a yellow stick of Wegmans brand butter. I retracted my statement before I’d even finished it. But, I have in fact made butter in the past, back in the day when I taught preschool. It was an annual part of our classroom Thanksgiving feast. It’s simple as can be and a fun task for little helpers. And so, to make up for my Thanksgiving lie, we’re making homemade butter for our Christmas dinner.
What you’ll need is a container with a tight-fitting lid (a mason jar works well), two clean marbles, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour the cream into the jar. Add the salt and marbles. Then, shake, shake, shake.
Shake some more.
In about 7-10 minutes you should feel the cream thicken and the marbles will become silent. Keep shaking.
Shake it like a shake weight.
Pass the jar off to your guests if your arms get tired. After a few more minutes, the butter will separate from the buttermilk. It’s impossible to miss when this happens. Pour off the buttermilk (and save for other uses, if desired) and remove the marbles, if they’ve wedged themselves in the clump of butter.
Back in my preschool days, we stopped at that step and enjoyed our fresh butter on warm rolls. But, if you want your butter to last longer than a couple days, you’ll want to drain your butter of as much of the buttermilk as possible. To do this, cover the butter with ice cold water. Press the butter with a spoon to release some of the buttermilk. The water will become cloudy. Drain the water. Repeat this process until the water remains clear. Tightly wrap and refrigerate your butter.
Ok…I’m signing off until after Christmas. Time to put my Santa hat on. Wishing you and your loved ones the very merriest of days! And may all of your Christmas wishes come true!