For me, this year's Christmas was a bit different from other childhood years. I was literally in bed on the 24th about to go to sleep when the full realization hit me: "Oh wait! Christmas is tomorrow!" I've had non-stop school, homework, and basketball that lasted until Friday afternoon.
By Friday afternoon, everyone at my school was busy giving presents, throwing homeroom parties, stuffing ourselves with candy passed slyly under desks, and various classes involving the watching of Mean Girls, Elf, Ghostbusters, and a TV interview where Daniel Radcliffe recited the periodic table of elements. The last two periods were a giant party for us, and it was easy to get caught up in the hype. Christmas was devoted to time with my family, playing board games, some Doctor Who watching, Nutcracker ballerina evaluating, and several hours of insomnia on Christmas Eve. I should have called Insomnia Cookies (See earlier post).
Saturday, December 24th: Christmas Eve
For Lunch, we had Mussels with Safron and Mustard from Bouchon Cookbook, (naturally, my dad says) and Ciabattini Bread from a Sullivan Street Bakery recipe.
Dinner consisted of Cheese Fondue with fingerling potatoes, olive bread, keileasa sausage, and apples to dip. Dessert was chocolate fondue with marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, and pears.
I once ate at a Bobby Flay restaurant called Bar American. When I ordered clams, it was very uncomfortable eating them, because they were served cold and I drew a picture in my head of rubbery, slimy meat slipping down the slides of my gullet. Nowadays I laugh to myself when I think about that day, but the taste of my dad's mussels completely shoves the previous image out of my mind. I got to participate a little in the making of the sauce that was used, and my dad taught me a bit of mussel trivia. I peeled garlic and smelled a small bottle of $25 saffron. I even tried singing to the mussels to get them to open. I was unsuccessful, and I left the kitchen soon after because I didn't want to see the shellfish boiled. (Another memory I have is when my dad told me about how lobster shriek when you cook them. Thanks, dad.) I didn't dwell so much on the past as I enjoyed scooping out the soft meat inside of the mussels. In addition to my new shellfish experience, I also spent a good half an hour making up shellfish puns.
Fondue is a Christmas Eve tradition at my house. There's just something about dipping delicious bread into a creamy mixture of cheeses that is appealing and satisfying. We also have special fondue forks. The pot sits over a slightly burning candle in the middle of our kitchen table, so the entire family can reach toward the center, having pleasant, fun conversation. What I think is great about fondue is that it can be made out of virtually anything capable of melting, and anything can go into it. Bread, vegetables, fruit, and meat can be dipped into a thick, bubbling mixture. Fondue can be savory or sweet, simple or complex, extravagant or casual. I'm very fond-due of it.
Sunday, December 25th: Christmas Day
Breakfast: Chocolate Chip Pancakes with whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, confectioner's sugar, and syrup.
Dinner: New York Strip Steak, basil-whipped mashed potatoes, cheese plate, duck liver musse, mesclun salad with heirloom tomatoes.
To drink: ginger citrus, pomegranate and black currant sparkling sodas.
Dessert: Chocolate Hazelnut Bouche de Noel from Bouchon Bakery.
On Christmas Eve my 12-year-old brother informed me that he was going to wake me up at seven o'clock in the morning. In response, I pulled out all the tricks I could muster: from puppy dog eyes to hunched shoulders to a tilted head, even my pitiful "What? No!" But my attempts were not enough to bargain with Dash to earn me even an extra hour of sleep. The next morning, who should come into my room, but my mom, who laid down next to me on my mattress (welcome to New York City living) and whispered in my ear, giggling like a little girl, "Wake up! It's Christmas!" The time? 7:06 am. She proudly displayed how she waited, giving me an extra six minutes to sleep in. I attempted to roll over with an incoherent groan, but her work was done. I was awake.
After opening our presents, breakfast was laid on the table. If you are going to make chocolate chip pancakes, go all out. Don't hold back with toppings. Just empty your fridge. That's what my family did, but only my family could have confectioner's sugar just lying around. Breakfast isn't my favorite meal, probably because I don't really have time to enjoy it. Usually in the mornings I'll just grab a yogurt or something and head off to school. But pancakes done right are something I love to eat. My ideal pancake is about the size of my hand, has a light and fluffy texture, and not overly cooked. The chocolate chips are simply a plus. Berries and whipped cream are also really good combinations with pancakes, if you don't want to drown yourself in syrup. It adds a fresh spin to the comfort of a good pancake. The only downer for me was that my stomach seemed too small at 7:00 in the morning.
Dinner was incredible. I enjoyed everything I ate, ignoring the evolutionary limits of my stomach, and I had the most fun with new foods. "Drunken Goat" cheese, duck musse, basil-whipped potatoes, and the drinks were unique combinations of food to me. After we couldn't eat any more, we put everything in the fridge to be used for leftovers. We let our stomachs settle, then we brought out my favorite: Bouche de Noel. It's a little rolled cake, with shaved chocolate on the top. The hazelnut is subtle, and the entire cake is so soft and sweet. It's a simple desert, but hard to make.
When my family gets together to make a meal, we don't take it lightly. I especially loved our Christmas meal for this year. Everything was rich without being overwhelming, slightly familiar but not boring, somewhat new but not foreign, and 100% enjoyable. Conversation was light and upbeat, and we all ate while enjoying each other's company. We had old traditions mixed with new experiences. That's the Nelson Family Official Christmas Dinner.
Happy Holidays everyone!