Eastside Road, December 25, 2011—ROAST GOOSE, FOLLOWED closely by a prime rib beef roast, are my candidates for Christmas dinner. But when the cook suggested ham instead I didn't hesitate. Whether my advancing age, or the nature of the season, I find nostalgia creeps in at such moments, and I thought of the feast-day hams my mother used to cook, with the delicious marrowbone, and the outside scored in diamond patterns, and coated with brown sugar, and perhaps rings of pineapple, and cloves.
So we went to one of the local upscale supermarkets in search of a decent natural ham. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find no hams in the butcher case. There was one pork leg roast: Is that what you mean? the "butcher" asked; No, it isn't, I want a cured ham, bone in, fat on, that we can cook for Christmas dinner.
We were directed to the refrigerated help-yourself case, and there they were: precooked hams, spiral-sliced hams, curious compressed hams, none of them with fat, or skin, or bones. We chose one of the compressed jobs: it looked like an old-fashioned beehive, those hemispherical ring-marked basket-weave beehives.
Well, it was okay. It wasn't ham, I said; Yes it is, said Cook. It's ham food, I countered — a little bit sullenly, I'm sorry to say.
Other things had gone wrong. The 1984 Joseph Swan Chardonnay was past drinking — we stuck the bottle in the fridge, corked, to use in risotto next month. My pickled carrots lacked bite and salt.
But mostly things went just fine. Our guests from down the hill brought spoon bread fixings (and cooked it for us in our kitchen) and a lovely baccalà mantecato to have with a bottle of Frexeinet as an appetizer. Cook made a fine roast vegetable
dish with carrots, parsnips, Delicata squash, celery root, garlic, marjoram and thyme. I dressed the green salad with shallots and a marvelous new olive oil from Les Baux (thanks, Michael!). And there was pumpkin pie with hard sauce for dessert. Oh: and, again from down the hill, made from David Lebovitz's recipe, a little tower of chocolate macarons.
Good thing it was all so good, as there was plenty left over, and we'll be eating Christmas dinner all Christmas week…
Zinfandel, Ridge (Lytton Springs), 1988: a little past its prime, but fragrant and delicious