Christmas Eve dinner at Chez Salazar was – if I may say so – a satisfying success. The Oysters Rockefeller were from a recipe by Tyler Florence. A little too much Pernod, but still they were great.
Consommé came out well: clear, beefy and with that smooth feel that comes from the bones in the stock. Jacques Pepin’s recipe was our guide here, though this is a dish where the technique – not that difficult, really – is the important part: Do not over-boil, but just let the soup simmer so it gently bubbles up through the “raft”. Finishing with a splash of madeira worked out nicely.
Next came the Sole meunière, made with grey sole filet (actual whole Dover soles being hard to come by nowadays). This is totally simple – season the fish, dredge in flour, fry in butter and a little olive oil; when brown move to the serving plates, then in the same frying pan make a beurre blanc with lemon juice and capers; finally, pour the hot sauce over the warm fish so it sizzles. Total time, from filets to plate: about 7 minutes. This was good fish.
Finally, the entrée: Prime Rib of Beef with Sauce Béarnaise, Red Rice from the Camargue, and ginger-cashew green beans. It has been some years since I last made an egg-based sauce, and I have had my share of scrambled-egg sauce disasters. But I prepped by intensive Julia-watching, and the sauce was a success. Make sure you use enough vinegar!
The red-rice is a traditional Christmas dish in France, usually made with peas, scallion, leeks or other green vegetable to create a red-green holiday motif. If you’ve never tried this rice, well, try some; the flavor is nutty, a bit sweeter than brown rice, and has a nice “crunch” that makes it good for both warm dishes and cold rice salads. We made ours with braised leeks and red-pepper.
The ending was Kim’s pumpkin mousse pie. This is a much lighter pumpkin pie, with beaten eggs and cream, and pumpkin folded in. Since I missed Thanksgiving this year, I prevailed upon Kim to make this for Christmas Eve. The butter-crust came out perfectly. I have to say, much as I like apple pies, this pumpkin pie is my favorite of pies.
Maybe this seems like a lot, but half the fun here is in the cooking. We begin noontime or so, starting the early parts of each dish, having some snacks, some wine, a little more cooking, a little more snacks … you get the picture.
When all is done and we are ready to start, one thing remains, three tones from my rin gong:
The tones are clear, and as they fade they take away the rushing of the day, the week, the year. This is not a time of year to rush – I want to savor the lessons of the season and truly taste the things before me.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, a Peaceful Solstice. I and the family will be ringing in the New Year from Pune – talk to you all in 2013.