Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Dinner(s)

NE 8th Avenue, Portland, December 26, 2012—
WHAT! FASTING FOR CHRISTMAS? Well, Christmas did fall on Tuesday; technically I suppose we shouldn't have eaten. But if you don''t feel like following a (self-imposed) rule, just really break it wide open. So we had TWO Christmas dinners, and they were so much fun, and involved so much socializing, that I didn't take any photographs.

The first was in fact on Christmas Eve, when we roasted a goose and made bagna caudal. I had a little to do with both operations. The goose was frozen, because I'd neglected to reserve a fresh one from a local farm — that would have had to have been done last May, it turns out — but it worked out just fine. It weighed twelve pounds, and came with all its spare parts, thank Schiltz.

After it had thawed, which took a couple of days, I tore off the extra fat and set it aside, along with the neck, gizzard, heart and liver. (We'll deal with them later.) I rinsed it and dried it, rubbed it with salt inside and out, and stuffed it with a couple of pounds of our apples of several varieties, which dear Lindsey had peeled, cored, and quartered; combined with a pound of pitted prunes cut in half.

I always make a few pokes with the tip of a sharp paring knife through the skin on the breast of the goose, also the sides, to encourage the exuding of fat while it cooks. We roasted the goose for half an hour at 450°, then took it down the hill to finish in the neighbor's oven at 375° for a couple of hours. The goose was basted from time to time with its own juices. It was perfect.

I cut seven or eight stalks of cardoon from my plant, trimmed them of leaves, and peeled the strings off the backs of them using an ordinary potato peeler; then cut them into inch-long chunks, putting them in a bowl of water with the juice of a lemon (and the two halves of the squeezed-out lemon). When they were all done I brought them to a boil, then let them stand, drain, and set aside.

The bagna cauda was simple: about six tablespoons of butter, just melted; very thinly slice garlic, say eight or so cloves, softened in the butter; a couple dozen little anchovy fillets, drained of their oil and mashed up; and a couple of cups of good olive oil added to the mix, cooked softly for ten minutes or so.

Dinner was phenomenal: cheeses and olives and nuts, the bagna caudal with the cardoons and also endive, cubes of bread, strips of sweet red and yellow pepper which T. had prepared.

After the roast goose and T.'s wonderful red cabbage we had the usual green salad; then dessert: her incomparable apricot-and-raspberry Linzer tart, and eggnogs…
Cava, Bohigas, Gran Reserva (fine, almost tight, complex, perfect: thanks, Michael); Bandol, Domaine du Gros ’Noré, 2007 (solid, fruity, good terroir, a fine vintage); Cabernet sauvignon, Francis Coppola, 2000 (a little past prime but still pleasing: thanks, Kendall)

AFTER ALL THAT, and far too little sleep, and a twelve-hour drive through rain and dismal sunshine, we tucked into dinner last night, another traditional one, with a dozen at the table: extended family. Dinner was prime rib and mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green salad of course, and three fine cheeses: two Stiltons and a cheddar.

CookiesThen for dessert, this imposing plate of candies, dates, and cookies.
Champagne, Agrapart & Fils, "Les Sept Crus" (authentic); Beaujolais Nouveau, Domaine Dupeuble Père et Fils, 2012 (in magnum): sound and fruity; Gigondas, Domaine Les Pallières, 1999 (in magnum): edgy, smooth, mature but spirited; Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe "La Crau", 1999 in magnum): fine, round, deep, prime (thanks, Joe and Karen!)

And then, finally, a sound eight-hour sleep, and now I'm caught up.

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