There is a serious holiday hangover happening in our house right now. For nearly 36 hours straight, we were absolute holiday gluttons. We feasted, opened presents and watched ‘A Christmas Story’ at least 1.5 times. It was a wonderful past few days with The Missus, but we probably could have done without a helping of thirds of the Vinegretas. I couldn’t close the refrigerator last night because of how much food we had just for the two of us. Maybe it’s because our families are so far away that we feel the need to overcompensate with an ungodly amount of bacon and puff pastry. But, whatever the reason, we had a fantastic holiday and have a lovely shiney coat because of all of the fat we consumed.
The feasting started Saturday with another non-traditional, traditional Kūčios. This year we violated every rule about dairy and meat, though we started with something a little more traditional:
Smoked mackerel with pickled beets and horseradish sour cream. We served this with Lithuanian rye bread and the mackerel came from Duck Trap in Maine. For dinner we had traditional Lithuanian dumplings (Kuldūnai), bacon buns (Lasineciai) and Vinegretas.
1 lb ground lamb (not too lean) or ½ lb ground beef and ½ lb ground pork (for fattier
1 med onion chopped
Fresh ground pepper and salt one pinch each
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 pinch salt
Mix filling ingredients together and set aside. Mix together dough mixture and roll out
onto floured surface. Cut out 2-3 inch circles of dough and fill with a spoonful of meat
filling. Fold it in half and press edges down with a fork. Add kuldūnai to boiling water
and cook for 10 minutes or until they all float. Serve with Sour Cream Butter sauce.
Sour Cream Butter sauce
In a pan melt equal parts butter and sour cream until sour cream has pretty much melted.
Pour over kuldūnai.
We cheated and used won ton skins for the dumpling wrappers and it didn’t quite work out the best for us. While The Missus made a fantastic meat mixture, the skins just became soggy and noodley, which made for a very unpleasant texture. We vowed to make the dough from scratch next year.
The bacon buns were simply made with coarsely chopped bacon(I believe she used 3/4 of a pound), crisped in a pan.
Remove the bacon, drain some of the fat and saute in about 1 cp of onions until soft. Season with salt and pepper and mix in bacon and let cool to room temperature.
Defrost your puff pastry according to directions, then remove to a floured surface and cut off squares for the buns.
Roll out to desired size and place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle.
Fold over top and seal to bottom, crimping edges to ensure they don’t bust open.
Brush with egg wash and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.
Now, it’s not easy to top the Lithuanians when it comes to pork and potatoes, but I think I managed to do it this year with a bacon and garlic encrusted pork roast.
The roast was succulent and moist, with a bit of smokiness from the bacon ring.
But, there was more than just pork. There was mashed potato casserole, too! And something green!
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, and more for the pan
6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
1. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a large pot, bring the potatoes, 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
3. Mash potatoes with 10 tablespoons butter, sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mash in the chives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spread potatoes into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.
4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix together until it forms coarse crumbs. Crumbs can be refrigerated for three days.
5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the potato casserole and bake until golden and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.
I cut the recipe in half and added a cup of shredded Cave Aged Gruyere to the mashed potatoes before I set them in the refrigerator. This lent a nice salt and nuttiness that balanced out the 3/4 of a cup of sour cream. I’d say that this was easily the “fat kid” winner at the table this year. It was ridiculously rich(nearly a stick of butter in the potatoes, along with a container of sour cream and cheese) and I kept wanting more of it even when I was past rational fullness.
The greens were a Mario Batali recipe for broccoli rabe that I’ve made a few times. It’s extremely quick and simple and that was exactly what I needed after spending most of the day in the kitchen.
Broccoli Rabe, Pugliese
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed
- 1/4 cup small pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
In a large, deep saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the broccoli rabe, then add it to the saucepan with the water still clinging to it. Cover the pan tightly and cook until the broccoli rabe is tender and just a few spoonfuls of water remain, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and top with the olives
And, to top it all off, we had cheesecake. Both nights.
I think I’ll have salad the rest of the week.
(photo from Culture Magazine)
Parmigiano Reggiano. Not pre-grated, not that shit that comes in a canned shaker or is any way, shape or form, pasteurized. We’re talking about the “King of Cheeses” for God’s sake, so have some respect here. You want the real stuff, raw and imported. You know I love my American cheese makers, but you have my permission–actually, my encouragement–to roll your eyes at the next person trying to sell you ‘Parmesan’ at the farmer’s market. It’s not even a distant cousin to the real thing. This is 660 years of traditional cheese making at it’s absolutely most perfect execution. What the cow’s eat, how the milk is heated, where it’s aged–all of it is regulated by law and all of that fuss makes sense after one bite. There is no other cheese as nuanced as Parmigiano, with its perfect balance of creaminess, crunch, sweetness and salt. This is one of those cheeses that, once you have the real thing, you are very hard pressed to use any lesser substitute.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Missus and I to our friends, family and fellow food lovers.
I’m in the thick of it now–holiday madness at work. On my days off this week I’ve baked approximately 15 dozen cookies to give to friends and coworkers. I’m burnt out and reeling from a pretty fucking big sugar crash. So, without breaking out the hyperbole… I’ll just give you some holiday cookie recipes.
(from the bottom, up)
Momofuku Marshmallow, Cornflake and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (adding peppermint candy and chocolate chips to the mix)
Peanut Butter and Bacon Cookies
Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies (I used left over Cornflake Crunch from the Marshmallow cookie, cocoa nibs, pretzels, dark chocolate chips and marshmallows)
(photo from TheKitchn.com)
One of the best dishes I ate this year had Burrata at the center of it. It was at Bresca, back in March, during Restaurant Week. Dawn and Adam were with The Missus and I, settling in for a four course dinner when the plate arrived. We hadn’t ordered it, mind you, but Chef Krista Desjarlais generously surprised us (she knows my love of cheese) with an antipasto course of Burrata, prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, capers, olive oil, aged balsamic and bread. The table didn’t speak for over the course of the next twenty minutes. We were too focused and our mouths were too full to articulate how wonderful it was at the time. I think I thanked Chef Desjarlais for the month for her kindness and the amazing food we had that night. Burrata is NOT a cooking mozzarella, it’s filled with cream and melty curd, so don’t waste it on a pizza. Make a plate, similar to the one that we were served, and enjoy some comfortable silence with some friends over one of the simplest–yet, exquisite–cheeses in the world.
(photo from NYTimes.com)
We’re going to talk French again. You don’t really think about domestically made cheeses when the name ‘Raclette’ rolls around. You think French or Swiss made, melted on roasted fingerling potatoes or crusty bread. Truthfully, I wasn’t fond of Raclette cheese until this past year when I was introduced to one by Chef Guy Hernandez of Bar Lola. This one, from Springbrook Farms in Vermont, has completely shattered my illusion and ambivalence towards Raclette. It’s painfully more interesting in both nose and paste to the French or Swiss varieties you can by stateside. It’s rusty, pink rind gives you a fair bit of warning that the cheese has a nose to it, but the bite is no where near as strong. The paste is creamy, with a bit of a cheddar spring to it. It’s a bit earthy, but has a pretty mild nutty finish. I’ve had it on eggs, melted over a rib eye sandwich and shredded into a gratin. It’s become my ‘go to’ melting cheese over the past few months, but it’s great for nibbling as is.
(photo from Murray’s Cheese)
I’ve encountered people, more than I care to admit, that don’t believe that Americans can make wonderful goat cheese that would rival the French, much in the same way they thought about our wine. Sure, it’s taken a bit of time (and we’re still dealing with those pesky and obnoxious raw milk laws), but I think we’re just about there. Some of the natural rind cheeses coming from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery are a prime example of that, like my favorite, Coupole. It’s one of the few bloomy rinds that I prefer in their younger state. The milk is sweet, mild and grassy–making for the perfect breakfast cheese to have with a sweet bread and cup of tea.