21 December 2012

'Tis the season: feeding a crowd of sleazy people who have suddenly amassed at your doorstep for the holidays (aka, your family)

I love my family, and I love having them over for a big meal, but sweet Jesus do I hate spinning in circles in my kitchen for hours, dirtying every non-dishwasher-safe pot and pan that I own. Can't I love them without becoming thoroughly exhausted by noon?  Yes, I think I can.

The night before, you can whip up a simple, preservative-free Cranberry Sauce.  Boil 1 bag fresh cranberries (pick out the squashed duds) with 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and 1 cup of either orange juice of apple cider.  Cover and lower heat to medium, stirring occasionally until berries have all burst and the sauce starts to thicken, then remove from heat.  When it's cool, refrigerate; you can either serve it at room temperature (put it out when you start cooking the next day) or hot for the feast.

You can also make your pies the night before.  Then, on the big day...

Grill some pork (or ham).  Let the men do it--they like sitting outside near open fire for some reason.  And if you brine it the night before, it really doesn't take that much time to cook.  This frees up the oven to...

Roast potatoes.  Throw in whatever other veggies people will eat, too.  Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cubed squash, and carrots are all fair game, and the roasting often sweetens things up, making unpopular bitter vegetables like the above more palatable to cabbage-family haters.  Then, on the stove top you can quickly make...

Thai Red Curry Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  Peel, cut, and boil 4-6 medium sweet potatoes until soft (you can also throw in some butternut squash if you want).  Drain and add 2 teaspoons red curry paste, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1 cup coconut milk, and salt and black pepper to taste.  Mash the hell out of 'em.  And if you have a steamer insert, you can steam 2 pounds of fresh

Green Beans right over the boiling potatoes.  In the oven that is lovingly roasting your vegetables, you can bake 6 strips of bacon until crisp and crumble them over your cooked green beans.  First, toss the bright green, al dente beans with 1 clove smashed garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Then drizzle a little of the bacon grease over it, stir, and top with crumbled bacon and crumbled gorgonzola.

You'll have so much free time, you'll be able to mull some cider and sip happily with a heavy pour of rum (or, the favorite add-in at the Byrnes-Riner house, tequila): dump a gallon of apple cider into a Dutch oven or similarly large vessel, and add 1 large orange studded generously with cloves (great project for someone stationary who's not helping enough), 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1 dried star anise (optional).  Simmer over medium-low heat until it's good and hot, and let it cook for as long as you like--the flavors get stronger with time.  Add the rum or tequila directly to your cup to avoid cooking off the precious alcohol.

Then the fun begins all over again with leftovers...stay tuned for those. Happy holidays!