Merry Christmas – Happy Hanukkah


Kelly, Greg, Beez and Mike on Christmas

Monday:                              Chicken Canzanese / Polenta w cherry tomatoes and mozzarella / Salad


Tuesday:                              Pears and Cheese / Creamy polenta with basil, tomato and mozzarella / Parmesan bread toasts

Wednesday:                      Naked Pizza / Sausage and Escarole Soup


Thursday:                            Pork and Chive Dumplings / Green Salad


Friday, First Day
of Hanukkah:                     Roast Shrimp / Salad

Christmas Eve:

Crudité with Fromage Fort

Roast Shrimp

Rice with Olives and Parsley




Crostini with Fromage Fort

Guacamole and Chips / Salumi Plate

Tenderloin of Beef

Roasted potatoes with rosemary and pancetta

Green Salad

Orange Cake

Stilton with nuts and raisins and, above all, Calvados

As you can see from the heading of this post, I am a traditionalist.  So much so that I have included, just below these brief comments, a passage from the Roman Martyrology which always fills my heart and situates Christmas in a broader perspective.

I also love Christmas because there is never any question or objection about inviting family and friends over or visiting them.  If I had my way, we would entertain all family and at least one friend every weekend.  But I defer to the more sensible and sensitive SWMBO.  As I understand it – and I’d be the first to admit that I’m not sure that I do – she doesn’t feel that I should be imposed on family or friends too often.  When I even begin to puzzle this out, it occurs to me that it has deeper implications . . . but I won’t go there.  I simply obey – she is, after all, magnificent, and she is, above all – SWMBO*

*For those of you new to the blog or simply forgetful – SWMBO stands for ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed.’ I stole it from John Mortimer’s splendid creation, Rumpole of the Bailey, who stole it from Rider Haggard’s novel, Ayesha, or She, and who uses it as a term of something less than endearment for his rather hideous wife.  Now Beez, my beautiful wife, is not hideous in any way.  But she is commanding and, when I consider what she has to deal with (mostly me), rightfully so.

This week I want to share a new way to cook fillet with you.  This most luscious cut of beef can be made even more luscious by a technique for creating a mild peppery crust and, of course, by perfect cooking.  Look below to see how.  As an extra, I will try to lure you into making Chinese-style dumplings.  I say “Style,” because of my amateur approach, but Helen You, owner of Dumpling Galazy in New York, says that she has not changed this recipe since she learned it, cooking alongside her mother back in Tianjin in Communist China.  As the name “Galaxy Dumpling” implies – these babies are out of this world.

The “Keepers” for the week, can be found directly below this-

Adaptation from the Roman Martyrology for Christmas:

The Twenty-fifth of December, when ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created Heaven and Earth and formed man in his own likeness;  when century upon century had passed since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood, as a sign of covenant and peace; in the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith, came out of Ur of the Chaldees; in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses in the Exodus from Egypt; around the thousandth year since David was anointed King; in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel; in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; in the year seven hundred and fifty-two since the foundation of the City of Rome; in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and when nine months had passed since his conception, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Juda, and was made man:  The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.



(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Winter Recipes)

In a sense, there is little so satisfying to eat that is so simple to cook as what we commonly call ‘Fillet of Beef.’  Still – the thought of over-cooking a fillet is so terrifying to the denizens of Fox Chapel – particularly the Duffys, the Welshes and the Slavishes – that a resident cook, no matter how experienced, often feels daunted.  But have no fear – if you can just postpone that first Christmas martini until after the beef comes out of the oven, you can easily tend and produce the perfect fillet.

So why even bother with a recipe?  For one thing – it really is daunting to cook a fillet in my neighborhood.  Your wife or husband or child or parent will all tell you, several times during the course of the day: “It’s a sin to overcook a fillet.”  I have even known cases where landscapers, house cleaners and handymen have chimed in.

The method described below is, in my experience, the simplest way of achieving a perfectly roasted fillet.

(Fillets can, and ought to be, grilled – and there are methods calling for a quick sear of the fillet on top of the stove or a blast of high-temperature to form a crust followed by lower temperature roasting.  These are all great methods, but require some experience and, in my case, at least one $150 failure – it was the martini’s fault.)

Timing:                 After allowing the beef to come to room temperature, 1 ¼ hours

Ingredients:                       Serves 10-12

Whole beef tenderloin, trimmed – 6 lbs  (I cooked a 3 lb. fillet and fed 7 people)
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
NOTE:  I used all of the amounts above, except for the pepper, which I halved to match the size of the tenderloin


Grind the pepper, or if your grinder grinds too fine, put the pepper in a plastic bag and crack it pretty well.

Adjust oven rack to middle and heat to 300F

Get out a rimmed baking sheet and a wire rack that fits into it (to hold the beef)


Heat 6 tablespoons of oil and the pepper in a small pan over low heat – when faint bubbles begin to form, set timer and cook until pepper is fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Swirl the pan from time to time.

Strain out the oil through a fine-meshed strainer and discard oil.  Mix pepper with 3 tablespoons of oil and the orange zest and nutmeg.

Set the tenderloin on a sheet of plastic wrap and sprinkle the salt, sugar and baking soda mixture over it and rub it into the tenderloin (top and sides) until the surface is tacky.  If your butcher has not already tucked the tail under the main piece of the loin and tied it, do so now.  Then rub the top and sides of the tenderloin with the pepper mixture, pressing to make sure it adheres.

Transfer the tenderloin to the rack in the baking sheet, put in the oven and roast for 60 to 70 minutes (thickest part of the meat should register about 120 F for rare.

Transfer to a carving board and rest for 30 minutes.  That’s right, Hungry Joe – 30 whole minutes.  The meat will remain hot and the juices will redistribute so that you have wonderfully, perfectly, velvety, juicy beef with a tasty peppery crust.

Some people like this with a sour-cream horseradish sauce.  I like it plain.  You might consider a port or other type of red wine sauce.  But honestly – it is just perfect served plain with a side of roasted potatoes and a green salad.


Bill, Beez and Rick on Christmas Eve

EXTRA                   Pork-and-chive Dumplings

(adapted from NY Times Magazine, “A Father’s Meal,’ December 18, 2016)

Timing:                 About 1 hour – you’ll get about 24 dumplngs, plenty for 3-4 people with a salad, or use as an appetizer


For the dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 egg white

For the filling:

1 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons sherry
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces finely chopped garlic chives (I used regular chives)

Make the dough:

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.

Stir water and egg white into flour until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball.

Move the dough to a floured surface and knead, dusting with more flour when it gets tacky, until it is smooth to the touch, with no pockets of flour.  This takes just a few minutes.

Cover the dough and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

While dough is resting, make filling:

Put ingredients into a bowl and use your hands to combine until well blended.

Making the dumpling wrappers:

After the dough is rested, knead it about 10 times, until it forms a smooth-as-satin firm ball.  Use a flour dusted knife or scraper to cut into 4 pieces.  Roll each piece in a log and cut each log into six equal pieces.

Flatten the pieces with the palm of you hand and roll out with a floured rolling pin to a 3-4 inch round.  As you work, place the rounds on a plate and cover them with a moistened dish towel to keep them from drying out.

Making the dumplings:

Place a tablespoon of the  filling at the center of each wrapper and gently squeeze the edges shut, push out any air bubbles and fixing any tears.  You can pinch the closed edges into pleats, if you wish.

Cooking the dumplings:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil the dumplings 6 at a time for 6 to 8 minutes – they will float to the surface, puff up and the dough will become translucent.  Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.   We like them with soy sauce.