MORE CHRISTMAS BRUNCH DIARIES AND CHRISTMAS STORIES

December 24, 2006 

  I really love eggnog – that simple.  There are a lot of foods that I really love – that simple.  It is said that the drink is of English origin, refined in America.  Served with the addition of rum, ‘grog’, in the ‘Colonies’ the name corrupted to eggnog.  Or if you prefer, a punch drink served from a small wooden carved mug called a ‘noggin’ and corrupted to eggnog.  Whatever, though in all honesty the derivations and evolutions fascinate me.  The perfect holiday treat as it has alcohol.   

I have been making eggnog with this recipe since Bonnie and I first got together more than 20 years ago.  Bonnie also being an eggnog lover.  This is another one of those ‘dishes’ that are really easy to make.  In all the time I’ve been making and serving it I have never had anyone get sick from the raw eggs (talk about tempting the Gods for retribution).  Actually, studies estimate that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of your eggs containing harmful bacteria.  I’ll take those odds.  Please God be kind.  If anyone’s going to get sick let it be me and not my wife or friends – there is that one neighbor though. 

My recipe is on the computer because the cookbook that contains it is falling apart and I worry about losing it.  The recipe is from the ‘Good Housekeeping Cook Book’, copyright 1944, 7th edition.  This cook book was given to me by my mother when I left home for the Rhode Island School of Design in 1968.  Though I had no idea that I’d be cooking evidently mom thought that it would serve me well.  She was right – as she often is.  This eggnog tastes fantastically good.  Thanks Mom.

 

December 14, 2003  

 All Right!!!!!!  This is as it should be. 

This was a great Christmas Brunch.  To begin with the weather is as it should be in December – SNOWING!  OK, a little sleet.  I’m of the opinion that it should be snowing, snow on the ground from November through March.  There HAS to be snow at Christmas.  Many folks cancelled out on account of the weather –we missed them but soldiered on.  Our stalwart friends of decades had been joined with new acquaintances – soon to be old friends And we have a MONDO  hit of a new entry with the GUMBO.  I was looking for the proverbial ‘stick to the ribs, its cold out dish’ and this was spot on.  Chef Barry loved it, though he said that the roux could be darker – advise that I have taken to heart.  And one of my dearest friends, Brooke, has pronounced it the best that she has ever tasted.  This praise coming from a woman who went from New York State to years of Louisiana living.  A beautiful woman who pulls no punches and wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.  A woman who knows her gumbo and a whole lot more. 

It is goooood.  Thick with a wonderful mahogany color  that’s broken by the red tomato pieces, pink shrimp, forest green okra, white chicken, bright green peppers and red hued crab and the hints of andouille sausage slices through the sauce.  Serve it at a perfect hot temperature over nice white rice so that you get every drop of the sauce.  A combination of spices that make a journey across  your taste buds; the immediate heat of the Louisiana Hot Sauce, the lingering heat of the Cayenne Pepper, in between the red pepper flakes and herbs – punch – counter punch – TKO with the chewy/spicy/hot andouille.  The velvet texture of the okra against the firmness of the shrimp and the shrimp/crab flavors of the marsh. A Merry Christmas indeed!!!

December 14, 2003 (cont.)

A very festive party indeed – look at the quantities of libations consumed.

 

   

I never said that I wasn’t a little off.  Here we have Santa being lead by a pair of leather moose, Mickey and Minnie, wearing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer noses.  Not only are the moose not reindeer, they were made in India.

 

December 17, 2006

 

So here we are, the 2006 Christmas Brunch.  Our 20th Brunch and the last – so far.  As I write this we haven’t yet seen Christmas 2007.   I think on Bonnie and I having had the great and wonderful PRIVILEGE of having been able to accomplish this, to salute our friends in this manor and I am thrilled and humbled.  Oh, yeah.  I also think that I am one Hell of a cook and host for doing this!  Damn Proud Pilgrim! 

 December 17, 2006 (cont.)

 

The preparations for the 2006 brunch shall forever live in my memory.  I can laugh about it now, in the midst of the ‘event’ I really didn’t have time to laugh – too much chaos.

The Sausage Bread recipe from Anne Casale is truly produces a very good item.  It takes time so I make it ahead and freeze it (not too much ahead, you want it tasty).  It’s yeasted dough rolled with a tasty mix of cheeses, sausage, meats and seasonings.  Always a real mover at the brunches.  The recipe states, it should be baked in a shallow baking tray.  I found out why a cookie sheet doesn’t work.  I also found out that you should never have a smoke detector located in the kitchen area. 

It was getting late, it was a week night, I was tired and the cookie sheets, rather than the baking trays were RIGHT THERE for me to put the sausage breads on and pop them into the oven.  So, I did.

With these breads you fold and press together a nice little seam on the bottom to hold all of the ingredients as they bake.  If you haven’t closed this seam, or if you’ve overstuffed the bread something’s going to leak out.  That something being the cheese. 

December 17, 2006 (cont.)

So, the first faint, gauzy tendrils of smoke start to issue from the stove vent.  Pop open the oven door and notice that some cheese is indeed leaking onto the cookie sheet and from there onto the floor of the oven.  Should have used those baking sheets.   

Turn on the exhaust hood over the stove and crack a window open to get better air circulation.  There, that’s better. 

The smoke detectors in the house are wired to a central alarm system.  I hooked up to the system because we do live off the beaten path and if the house caught on fire it’d be a while before anyone noticed. 

Hey! Look at that!  One hell of a lot more smoke!  And then, the smoke alarm goes off.  The noise that the alarm makes is enough to shatter your teeth and pop your eyeballs out of your skull.  The poor cat is clinging to the ceiling, Bonnie rushes into the room and I can barely see her through the smoke, we’re opening doors and windows as fast as we can and waving dishtowels at the alarms in hope of dispersing the smoke.  And the alarm continues its assault.  When the alarm goes off the central alarm station calls you.  IF you answer and tell them that everything is more or less under control they say goodnight.  If you don’t answer their call they call your police and fire departments, telling them that your house is burning down. 

December 17, 2006 (cont.)

 

The alarm continued to scream, we continued to wave dishtowels, we did not hear the telephone ring.  In an eternity of a few minutes we got most of the smoke out of the house, turned off the alarm and pried the cat off the ceiling.

We were genuinely surprised when a couple of minutes later the doorbell rang.  Nobody rings our doorbell late at night on a week night.  Peer through the window next to the door to see – four fire trucks with all lights flashing, two police cars with all lights flashing and a whole lot of policemen and firemen on our front porch.  The firemen carrying axes and hoses.   God bless the alarm company they had in fact done their job.  I open the door and say to the police officer, “Good evening officer, how can I help you?”  It was an automatic response to the axes that the firemen were carrying.  The officer says, “The alarm company has called us reporting a fire here.  We need to come in to be sure that everything is OK.”  All the lights still flashing and I’m getting the sense that the firemen, God love ’em, really want to swing those axes through parts of our home.  My shock is slowly receding to be replaced by panic and fear, “No fire officer, just a lot of smoke from some cooking that ‘got away from me’.”  I’m picturing axes going through the walls of our home.  The red white and blue lights are still flashing and four BIG fire trucks and two police cars look pretty scary sitting in front of the house.  And then our friend is standing beside the police officer.  The alarm company also calls any additional contact on your list and our friend was on that list.  Our friend and the police officer look at each other and the recognition for both is instantaneous – there had been some ‘history’ between them in regards to a past ‘matter’.   It was the kind of thing that you could see the officer thinking, for a split second, “If she’s a friend of theirs ……”  The police officer says hello to her and she says hello to him.  I can sense the axe hands getting more and more eager.   I’m trying to find my ‘happy place’, but it has fled the scene.  The officer says to our friend, “these are friends of yours?”  Our friend, “Yes.”  Me, “She’s one of our best friends.”  I’ll always stand by you.  The officer turns back to me, “Are you sure that there was no fire?”  Me, seeing a pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel, “Positive, just some melting cheese in the oven.”  The officer, “Well, I guess that we’ll be going then.”  Me, “I’m sorry that we got all of you folks out here for nothing, thank you.”  The disappointment of the firemen not having a reason to chop holes slowly, very slowly, evaporates.  The fire trucks, police cars, firemen and police officers made quite a procession as they exited our lane.  Our friend came in, gave Bonnie and I a hug and, at her suggestion, my trembling hands opened a bottle of Tequila and the three of us each had a pretty sizeable shots.  Goodbyes and thanks were said and it was back to baking the breads – in shallow baking sheets.

I shall always be grateful to the alarm company and most certainly to our township fire and police departments.  I did feel bad that all that manpower came out for nothing.  Next time – follow the recipe.  Chances are good that it tells you what to do for a reason.

 

 

My parents gave me this Santa on my first Christmas.   

 

 How interesting that the last ‘page’ of the 2006 Brunch has to deal with the booze, ice and ‘A LOT OF WORK’.  Interesting because in reality the wine and Dave’s Bloody Mary’s are not the core.  The core, as I’ve written before, being that we make this effort so that we can share the Holidays with our friends.  I am always proud and grateful that we can do this.  Which is why it hurt as much as it does when we can’t. 

  

Dessert: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits.  And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

With Love,

Ebenezer, Tiny Tim & Big Dave

 

Next week: The in-laws and food, church basements and ambrosia and more Dinner Diaries

 

 

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