I’m suffering from that dazed feeling one has after being away from work for more than a week at a stretch. It is a good feeling to return renewed and ready for a fresh year. However, I feel I have missed out on sharing all the tasty things I’ve cooked and/or eaten over the past week and a half!
It would be impossible to name them all (and I dug into some of the grub so fast I didn’t even get pictures) but here are a few highlights:
On Christmas Eve, I made yet another batch of those wonderful Fine Living Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze, because my father loves anything citrus-flavored and I wanted to take some fresh cookies to his house.
I also made up this easy candy tin to haul around from one house to the next over the holidays. In the bottom right corner are Oreo truffles (similar to these) I made with my mom. Beside them are pretzel sticks dipped in white candy coating and sprinkled with crushed candy cane. The chocolate bark was an incredibly easy, spur-of-the-moment invention. I simply melted an entire package of chocolate candy coating, then stirred in 1/4 cup of peanut butter, about 1 cup of toasted pecan pieces and maybe 1/2 cup dried cherries. I spread that in a 13×9-inch casserole dish and let it harden completely before cutting into pieces. It was candy for dummies!
On Christmas Eve, my husband and I traditionally have a quiet dinner at home before the craziness and the hectic travel of Christmas day begins. This time, we decided on venison tenderloin. My brother-in-law’s friend killed this deer on Nair property this fall and butchered it at my request.
It just so happens that Matt has experience processing meat and was able to extract the prettiest whole tenderloin I’ve ever seen from a deer. This photo shows the tenderloin doubled over and wrapped in bacon. I learned the bacon trick from U.S. Foodservice Chef Jeff Bland, who noted that venison is very lean and the bacon can help to baste it as it cooks and keep it moist. Boy, was he correct. I roasted this to about 135 degrees and served it with a horseradish sauce from Joy of Cooking.
The sauce calls for a basic bechamel (butter and flour to make a roux, then stir in milk and simmer until thickened) with 3 Tbsp. of horseradish added, along with a little dry mustard, a little vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. It was delicious.
On Christmas Day, my father fried oysters and his wife, Mary Beth, made delicious macaroni and cheese and cole slaw. I was so tired by that point in the evening that I didn’t even get a picture. The main attraction occurred the next day anyway. Check out this huge, honkin’ prime rib roast my sister and her husband bought at Leach’s Meats and Sweets in Norton, Ohio. This monster weighed in at about 14 pounds.
In this first picture, you can see that my father has already prepared it for roasting by rubbing it down with spices and trussing it. He placed it fat side up on a roasting rack and roasted it in the oven until it reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees. Considering that some of the family likes their beef gray and dead (Kim) and others like it still mooing (aunts), that turned out pretty well. Kim got the end piece and the aunts got the ruby-red center pieces. I got my nice, medium-rare slab. We ate until we busted!
From the mountains of Bath County, we then traveled to the outer banks of North Carolina to see my husband’s mother and stepfather. It was too cold for crabs; too cold to hit the beach. There was even snow on the sides of the roads and ice on the water as we crossed that final bridge into the OBX.
While in North Carolina, Howard’s stepfather, Bill Vann, made us a delicious gumbo from a recipe he found in Southern Living. Called “Big Easy” Gumbo, this recipe calls for chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp and – appropriately – black-eyed peas. This would be a great starter recipe for black-eyed pea haters because they add just enough of that earthy flavor without overpowering the gumbo. Howard is not a fan of these lucky little suckers, but even he gobbled up the gumbo.
On the way home from the Outer Banks, we vowed to finally try something from the Virginia Diner, the famous restaurant/peanut shop on U.S. 460 in Wakefield. Since we are the type to try and make it from point A to point B as quickly as possible without stopping for lengthy periods of time, we decided to call ahead and order something to go. “Something” turned out to be their famous country ham biscuits. Oh. my. heavens. The ham is shaved thinly and piled on top of homemade biscuits. We made out of there with six biscuits and a side of collard greens.
Two of the biscuits made it to the next morning, which was New Year’s Day. And since we got up a *little* later than usual on New Year’s Day, we turned them into brunch with scrambled eggs and the leftover collard greens. So there I’d incorporated two lucky foods – black-eyed peas and collards – into a stretch of a few days. It was time to eat some pork, too.
On New Year’s Day, I slow-cooked country style pork spare ribs in the Dutch oven and accompanied it with cabbage. And since I had received a mandolin slicer for Christmas from dear Dad, we used our 50 percent off coupon at Northwest Hardware to buy a Fry Daddy. Yes, that’s a bad idea right before New Year’s resolution time. But who cares? We had homemade fries with the ribs. And in one final, gut-busting food spree before the sobriety of the work week set in this morning, we used the Fry Daddy to cook buffalo chicken wings as a football-watching appetizer yesterday afternoon (while chili bubbled away in the slow cooker).
I would rate deep-fried chicken wings at home as almost as good as grilled wings. Which is a good thing, because grilled wings are certainly healthier! I can see myself cooking wings either way, depending on my mood and the weather.
As I type this, my tummy is nestled snugly against the edge of my desk and my tennis shoes are languishing in my gym bag. Therefore, I’ll be eating some big salads and getting my body moving again this week. But it sure was a delicious holiday season and I don’t regret a bit of it. I’d love to hear about the best things you all ate over the holidays.
Also, thanks to everyone who read and commented on my survey last week. I plan to make two big changes immediately: I will post new entries by the time you early birds log on every morning and I will approve comments more often, including on the weekends. Happy New Year!