Christmas, Family and Friends and Waiting for Prime Rib

claire and eleanor

Cousins Claire Anne and Eleanor Wren Stewart – the day after Christmas

Monday:              Chili with Avocado-Cucumber Toast, Custard with Raspberries

zucchini soup

Tuesday:              Gougères , Zucchini and Parmigiano-Reggiano Soup

rosemary potatoes

Wednesday:      Hamburgers, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Rosemary Potatoes

Texas Santa

Jeff was kind enough to send along this iPhone snap of a Texas Santa

Thursday:            Egg Salad Tartines with Mixed Herbs

SF Nicoise

Friday:                  Southern French Niçoise


Saturday:             Sausage, Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata, Green Salad

white bouillabaisse

Sunday:                Fingerling potatoes with sour cream sauce and Smoked Trout Roe, Warm Bar Nuts, White Bouillabaisse with Sourdough toasts

uncooked beef

Uncooked Beef


Many hours later

Christmas:          Mère Hanna’s Crabmeat Hoelzel, , Fingerling potatoes with sour cream sauce and Smoked Trout Roe, Warm Bar Nuts, Prime Rib, Rosemary Potatoes, Haricots Verts with Caramelized Shallots, Caesar Salad, Blue Cheese Plate with Walnuts, Raisins, Apples and Pears and Cookies

[Yes, We are aware that there are only 7 days in a week, and that Christmas occurred this Monday.  But how can we not combine Christmas Eve and Christmas?  And what would you write about in the week after Christmas?  The last Thursday in Advent?]

This time of year can be terrifying, if you let it.  Cooking a lot of food for a lot of people in the midst many other activities is a recipe for apoplexy.  But this time of year can also be clarifying for cooks who keep things in proper perspective.  It isn’t about the food, it’s about Christmas/Hannukah/(fill in your own holiday name), family and friends.  [For our atheistic friends, read “meaning of life” for Christmas or Hannukah.]

Not that you should forget the food.  You don’t want anyone to starve and you certainly want to make the time you spend celebrating Christmas or whatever you do celebrate special.  But you do that by paying attention to something or someone other than yourself and your own worries and schedule.  And one way to stop being selfish is to cook a great meal for everyone.  So, take a deep breath, get up early and prepare what you can ahead of time.  Then go to church and prepare the rest when you come back.  And take missing ingredients, delays, and overdue guests in stride.

If you have a loving family, as we do, then even serving dinner fairly late,* because the beef wasn’t cooked when you planned, will be okay.  Because, of course you all love one another.  But also because Mère Hanna had brought enough Crab Meat Hoelzel for an army, so that we could fend off starvation a bit longer.  And, of course, because people were talking, arguing, watching football, playing with the dog and drinking.

*”fairly late” in our family means after 2/3 of the guests have begun to slur their consonants

 Our excuse, admittedly lame, is that we had never cooked prime rib before and had a huge roast which various internet sites told us would take 2 hours and 15 minutes to cook at 350 and 30 minutes to rest.  We were about an hour and 75 degrees short.  But it turned out well, and for their patience our guests were rewarded with that immersive beef experience known mostly to cowboys and cavemen, and we were all beyond replete.

The next day we hosted a slightly larger cocktail party for Stewarts only, which allowed us to catch up with John and Linda (who cook their own Christmas dinner), nephews and nieces and their spouses and babies.  Our appetites were not as sharp as on Christmas when we converted enough prime rib into body fat to hibernate until April.  But we were hungry and so, in addition to cocktails, we had the excellent fried zucchini from Il Pizzaiolo, brought by brother John (I mean we’re talking mucho zucchini here – at least several backyard harvest’s worth), some home-made pizzas, our favorite spiced bar nuts and cookies.  An easy party with even more conversation than the day before, a little bit of drama with keys locked in a car at the end of the night, and an agreement to meet at the same time, same place next year.

The food last week was all good and I refuse to share my recipe for prime rib with you – your family might not be so forgiving.  So – for a keeper – I’m going to offer a new favorite hors d’oeuvres and direct you to the recipe for home-oven pizza from August 16, 2016.  Now you need to plan your own cocktail party.  Minimal preparation, maximum participation.

To find the home oven pizza recipe, click here:  Home-made Pizza

fingerlings with roe


(adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli, Home Cooking)

Timing:            About 40 minutes, if you make the sauce while the potatoes are cooking

Ingredients:                            Enough for at least 10, if you have other starters

15 medium sized fingerling potatoes
Leaves from 6 thyme sprigs
3/4 cup full-fat sour cream
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 ounces of trout roe (we like smoked roe – a bigger flavor, and you can also use salmon roe)
2 scallions, minced
Kosher Salt
Maldon sea salt
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cook the potatoes:

Preheat oven to 440 F (you can also parboil potatoes)

Toss the potatoes with the 1/4 cup of oil and seasom with the thyme leaves and kosher salt to taste.

Now arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until they can be pierced with a knife – about 25 minutes or a bit longer.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool

Make the Sour Cream Sauce:

Whisk the sour cream with 1 tablespoon of warm water until smooth.  Season with 2 teaspoons of salt.

In another small bowl whisk the 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon zest and lemon juice and then pour half of this mixture into the sour cream, reserving the rest for drizzling over the completed dish.

Assemble the hors d’oeuvres:

Slice the potatoes in half, lengthwise.  Then slice a small piece from the rounded underside of each half, to give a stable base to each half.  Arrange on a serving platter and top with a bit of the sour cream and the roe.  Drizzle with the remaining olive oil / lemon mixture and sprinkle with the scallions and the Maldon sea salt.