Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TRADITION & HOLIDAY SURVIVAL - Are family traditions just too much work?

Get the decorating done right away
As much as I hate to say it, making time to enjoy a meal with family and friends, especially during the holidays, is a tradition that just might be slipping from families due to our hectic or sedentary life styles. Keep in mind that air, food and water are three functions that a human body must have to survive. We should strive to master these three vital functions. If you have to eat, why not learn to cook well? You just can't beat homemade scratch cooking.
Get in the mood
People will give you many reasons why they don't like gatherings of friends and families, but most of them are invalid. Oh they'll come to your party, just don't want to host one. In my opinion, left to our own designs, family gatherings as we know them just might be pushed aside in favor of buying complete holiday prepared meals from the local grocer, or going out to eat for holiday’s and special occasions at your local restaurant. I actually enjoy getting together with family and friends.
Chicago Botanic Garden
This year, just before Christmas, I sprained my knee and ankle limiting my ability to help with the meal preparation. I was left to sit and do table prep rather than standing and actually cooking. This perspective gave me a unique insight into why parties are considered by many to be just too difficult to even consider. My family didn't care having a dictator in the room.
Had the butcher prepare (French) a pork crown roast
This year I had time to think about how to throw a stress-free party, if that's possible. These are my thoughts on the subject. Everything that can be done in advance should be. Your education begins today and learning just one phrase will greatly reduce your stress levels.
Season the roast
Mise en place
According to Wikipedia, Mise en place is a French phrase which means "putting in place," as in set-up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g. cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift. The practice is also effective in home kitchens.”
Stuff that roast
Food Safety
The next thing that you must consider is food safety. Every home kitchen should have a good quality, accurate kitchen thermometer. It should be properly calibrated by you on the day of your party, or anytime you cook meat, poultry or fish. You don't want your guests to go home, or to the emergency room sick because you served undercooked food.
Make a plan and work your plan
Create a custom music play list appropriate for the event. It should be ready to begin as soon as the first guest arrives and finishes when the last guest departs.
Crown roast ready to serve
What time should your guests arrive? If you plan on serving dinner at 6:00 pm, then you’re guests should arrive at 5:00 pm, unless they are needed to help earlier. Only those guests that will help create a stress-free party should be invited early.
Do you want a slice?
In our house it’s almost impossible to get more than 6 place settings that match. I often will buy one plate or dish just for a photograph. If it’s really special occasion, get new glassware and china, or rent it. Any decorating and house cleaning can and should be done days before your event or party. Last minute touch-ups are permitted. If you like your linens fresh, iron them in advance or RENT THEM.
Steamed cauliflower
Break up the families or friends. Assigning seats is a great ice breaker for getting people to talk to each other. Often when we go to a dinner party there's one family on one side of the room talking to each other, and the other family is on the opposite side. Tear down that wall!
Cauliflower gratin inspired by John Besh's cauliflower puree recipe
Deciding if all of the food preparation will be done in house or outsourced to your relatives or friends can make your party go easier, or harder, depending on the circumstances, equipment available, counter and dish washing facilities. If you don’t have enough refrigeration, plan on assigning someone (not you) to bring coolers and ice. 
If a family member, friend, or guest is bringing food, they should bring it completely prepped at their home and ready to serve if possible. If the dish requires any cooking, re-heating, or refrigeration once it arrives, that needs to be scheduled into your kitchen plan if space is available. If not eliminate it from your menu. Whatever you do, don't break out the cookbooks, or search the Internet for a new recipe that you've never tried before. While I try to avoid it, even recipes on this blog might have a mistake, just like the famous celebrity chef's recipes.
Dinner time
Write out your entire menu and how long each menu item will take to cook, rest, finish and serve. As an example, we were making a Pork Crown Roast, with stuffing and gravy (3 hours). Since we were eating at 6: 00 pm, the roast had to be in the oven by 2:30 pm. That gave us 3 hours to do other things in an almost stress free environment.
One half hour before your guests arrive, relax, meditate and set your mood, since it's your mood that will make or break this party. Have fun!
I know, right!
What can I say about parties and drinking? The people responsible for food prep, cooking and serving the dinner should have their first drink when they sit down at the dinner table, pop the cork on the first bottle of wine, thank their guests for coming and ask them to enjoy their meal. You also don't want your guest drinking and driving. Encourage responsible drinking. For a dinner party, have it at your home. If it’s a drinking party you’re after, meet at a bar.
Flan! A new tradition...
Now for my original thought. Who will carry forward the recipes that have been handed down for generations, if fewer young people today are not wanting to learn to cook? When we're gone whose going to make the Kartoffelklösse, or Mom's plum kuchen?
Any thoughts, on family traditions, vintage recipes, or giving young people the motivation to learn recipes from the past would be appreciated. 
Tim’s Rumaki Appetizer
I was considering entering a contest using fillo dough cups. I missed the deadline and thought that it was good enough to be on my table and in my blog for New Year's Eve.

1 box (15pc.) Athens mini-fillo shells
5-6 whole water chestnuts, diced
15   1/2 tsp. Braunschweiger, liver sausage, or mushroom pate
1/2 lb. bacon, crisp, drained, chopped
as needed chives, fresh, minced, for garnish.
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ginger, fresh, minced
1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted, optional
NOTE: Add crushed pineapple for an interesting variation.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.     
In a small bowl mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar, and minced ginger. If you are using the toasted sesame seeds add them to the soy sauce mixture. Set this to the side. 
Cut and dice the water chestnuts into small pieces. Add the water chestnuts to the soy sauce marinade.
Pan fry the bacon until crispy but not burnt. Drain the bacon and chop coarsely (1/4” pieces) so that the bacon is small enough to fit several pieces into each fillo cup. Set the bacon to the side.
Add Braunschweiger to cups
Place the 15 fillo shells on a baking sheet. Using a 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon, place one scoop of the Braunschweiger into the bottom of the cups. Gently press the Braunschweiger into the bottom of each cup. Stir your marinade mixture to mix well. Using a spoon, scoop out the water chestnut pieces and place them into each of the cups. Repeat the process with the bacon pieces until all of the cups are filled. Finally, drizzle some of the marinade over the bacon in each cup.
Drizzle marinade on cups
Place the sheet into the center rack of a preheated 350°F oven for 7-8 minutes, being careful not to overcook the shells. Remove from the oven and garnish with chives. Serve immediately.
Serve rumaki cups
NOTE: Traditionally “rumaki” is made with chicken livers and can be made that way using chopped chicken livers if you like. You may also use mushroom pate, cooked shrimp or scallops instead of the chicken livers or Braunschweiger.
Traditional rumaki
Happy New Year! Why not sign up to follow this blog above, or leave a comment below? I also have a request to cover Chicago style Italian roast beef. Any comments or thoughts, or reviews of electric slicers would be appreciated.
What's your beef?
© TMelle 2014-15