Topic: Off the Clock
Holidays: How Food Figures in For You
My most memorable Valentines Day’s were the ones I spent as Pastry Chef at Lula Café. We always did a large prix fixe, which featured “Brin de Amore” cheese. After a few years, you really have to push to find new accompaniments to that cheese!
Q: Take a yule-time trip down memory lane. Gingerbread, caroling and cocoa ... what are your best Christmas food/drink memories?
Every year when I was a kid we spent Christmas on my Aunt and Uncles dairy farm in Amish country in western Pennsylvania. We had fresh milk and cream in all of the food and my Aunt would make caramel popcorn by the garbage bag full. After evening milking the family and farm hands would gather around their (huge) kitchen table to sing (always a guitar or two were pulled out), talk, and play cards. That popcorn would be demolished along with hand made cocoa with really fresh milk. I’ve still never had better of either. Merry Christmas!
Q: Did you ever make or participate in making a gingerbread house? Describe the process and results.
Of course, more times than I care to count. This year I put up a Christmas lantern display in the lobby of the Affinia Hotel.
For a cookie exchange I would either bring my chocolate crinkle cookies made with felchlin chocolate or my butterscotch bars topped with crispy walnut meringue. Those are the two varieties that I can’t make enough of whether at home or at the restaurant.
Q: Did your family have a food-related essential tradition for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day? Do you have any now? Are they the same or different?
At my Father’s house it’s always shrimp cocktail for Christmas Eve… something I could certainly do without!
For mother’s day my sister and I would inevitably be stuck bumbling around the kitchen. At that time, we were vegetarian with limited dairy and very health conscience. It was usually spaghetti with whole wheat noodles, lots of veggies in the sauce, and a salad. Not very exciting, but it’s what we grew up on. Now days I could certainly make it more interesting, but I think deep inside this is the type of food my mom really loves and as it’s all about her. If you were asking me what I want for mother’s day however, I’d say it would have to be brunch at Chez Moi. I was there last night and Chef Dom assured me they will open soon for brunch… sign me up, please!
Q: The day-after-Thanksgiving-sandwich is as much a turkey tradition as the holiday feast itself, and everyone's got their own variation. What are your turkey sandwich traditions/compositions?
I like mine with a grainy mustard aioli, cranberry sauce, mixed greens, and crusty bread. Yum!
Q: We all have Thanksgiving day traditions. Share some of yours. What are your traditions each year? Where do you usually celebrate? How much do you participate in the cooking process?
Our family traditions are pretty usual, we get as many people together and cook the classics. If we are celebrating in Chicago then I usually do most of the cooking, however this year we are offering a prix fixe at the restaurant so I’ll be cooking at C-House instead. Instead we are planning on ordering curry when I get home!
Q: Eating is synonymous with winter holiday season. What is your favorite winter holiday food/s, and why?
I love the Christmas cookies my Aunts labor over each holiday season. Our family favorites are peanut butter kisses, nut butter balls (just like Mexican wedding cookies), chocolate cookies with andies mints on top, peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate, those green cornflake wreaths made like rice krispie treats with cinnamon candies on top, and sugar cookies. The recipes have never been changed to my knowledge. In recent years they’ve added my chocolate crinkle cookies and butterscotch walnut meringue bars to the mix. Every time I taste one of those cookie platters it brings me back to those childhood Christmas’ on the farm. Delicious!
Q: Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer grilling season. What are your Memorial Day food plans this year? What are your must-have food and drinks?
This year I plan on staying home with my kids. It’s not exciting, but as my husband has to work I think we’ll just take it easy. Although, I think a trip to our local ice cream shop, Lickety Splits is in order. [http://spoonfeed.restaurantintelligenceagency.com/images/emails/top_bg.gif?et_id=6iza4a] [http://spoonfeed.restaurantintelligenceagency.com/images/emails/left_bg.gif?et_id=6izbcv]
Q: Spice, mint, citrus ... which holiday sweets category calls to you the loudest, and why? What is your most beloved preparation of your favorite?
I really like spice, I love to make spice cakes, spiced dried fruit chutneys (both sweet and savory), and spiced gelati.
Q: Hanukkah celebrates the oil responsible for the Festival of Lights with foods like latkes, doughnuts and roasted goose. What is your favorite of these Hanukkah food traditions?
Doughnuts all the way
Well, let’s see, something from the raw bar for my father who adores the stuff, some sort of bacon starter to make my husband happy, for dinner steak and potatoes so my children will eat (my 13 mo old already destroys steak), chocolate for dessert to make everyone happy, and for me, many pours of a nice Spanish red…
Q: Let's talk turkey stuffing/dressing. Do you have a quintessential must-have version? What are its origins? Or do you like to experiment? Got any unconventional stuffing success stories?
I like my Gramma's old fashioned sage stuffing with enough butter to cause random heart failure. That being said, one night before Thanksgiving when my daughter was a baby and my husband was at work, I was diligently cooking the next days feast when I ran out of veg stock (see other posts detailing my mother's extreme aversion to meat). All I had on hand was my home canned chicken stock, it was either that or water. I rolled the dice and went with the stock. The next day at dinner, I knowingly placed the tainted dressing on the table (usually I made everything except the actual meat and gravy veg for my mom). I never breathed a word. As we ate my mother kept commenting on how flavorful my dressing was and how she had never had it's like (mind you she's been borderline vegan for 35 years). Yep, I did it, I fed her meat, and she liked it! Of course I'll never fess up because if I do she'll imagine some horrible illness but it just goes to show that everything really is better with chicken stock!
Q: Do you make holiday candy? Do you have a tradition/ritual or like to mix it up? What’s your favorite holiday candy/s to make, and why?
This year my daughter and I made fudge. Each year we hand make gifts, usually of the food variety. Some years it's preserves, some years chocolates, others hand made mixes, you get the idea. This year it was fudge: dark chocolate with pistachios, white chocolate and peppermint, caramel with cocoa nibs and salt. It never ceases to amaze me that my 6 year old can already hold her own in the kitchen with me. Each candy is exactly 1x1 square and they all look alike... due to the both of us being a little OCD? Maybe, but more likely it's becoming a shared passion. How cool is that?