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Holiday Reflections

Ah, holiday-time with the family!

Thank God we got that crap over with, huh?

Now that Passive-AgressionFest 2010 is behind us, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief and reflect upon the precious few things that went smoothly this holiday season.

If you ask me, the holidays are the perfect time for two things – 1. Hiding liquor in the garage so Mother won’t find out how much we are secretly drinking; and 2. Developing new recipes to delight and amaze our loved ones!

This year I wanted a new and exciting starter for our Christmas dinner, so I dreamed up this soup. It’s got flavors of old and new, a little comforting and a little exotic all at once.

Parsnip-Ginger Soup with Pomegranate Molasses
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange on a baking sheet:

  • ¾ pound parsnips (about 4), peeled and cut into uniform pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

Toss with:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp white sugar

Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until soft.
Meanwhile, saute over medium heat:

  • 1 small, chopped shallot, in
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Add parsnip-garlic mixture, along with

  • 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

Saute for a few minutes, then add:

  • 2 Cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 Cup half and half
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup

Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes and puree with a hand blender. Thin with additional stock or cream if necessary to reach desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and white pepper if necessary. Garnish each serving with 1-2 teaspoons of:

  • Pomegranate molasses*

*Pomegranate molasses is available at international markets, or you can easily make it yourself by boiling down pomegranate juice – such as Pom brand – until it becomes a thick, sweet syrup.

~

Year after year, the holidays have been marked by two consistent things – 1. The disappointing realization that your brother is probably never going to divorce that fat bitch; and 2. Equally disappointing cranberry sauce.

We hate the stuff that slops out of a can, but the homemade stuff, though better, still leaves something to be desired. It’s either too sweet or too tart, too chunky or too smooth… The additional spices are too much, too little, or just wrong. At long last, I am thrilled to announce that I have found the perfect recipe, at least according to me. I am even more thrilled to say it only calls for 3 ingredients. I can’t exactly tell you where it came from, except to say my sister’s girlfriend Cat found it online somewhere. Here it is:

Baked Cranberry Sauce with Apple Brandy
Serves a crowd as a condiment. Must be made the day before serving.

4 Cups Cranberries
2 Cups White Sugar
1/3 Cup Applejack (Apple Brandy)

Preheat oven to 300⁰. Mix all ingredients in a baking dish. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (stirring occasionally after the first half hour) until cooked through and the cranberries look jewel-like. Let cool completely, then refrigerate overnight before serving.At first, the texture is slightly gummy, but don’t be concerned. After chilling overnight, the texture mellows and the cranberries transform into perfectly tender little sparkly bites of magic, and their true flavor really shines through.

~

If you’re looking for a festive appetizer when you’re surrounded by hordes of family members, why not wrap a small wheel of brie with some delightful accompaniments? If, that is, you’re not too busy wrapping yourself up with feelings of self-pity and isolation.

You’ll need a half cup of the above cranberry sauce for this recipe:

Baked Brie with Caramel Pears and Cranberries

Preheat oven to 425⁰. Thaw according to package directions:

  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry

Simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat:

  • 1 Bartlett pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt
  • black pepper
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

Simmer until pears are slightly soft and butter and sugar have melted into caramel. Set aside the pear mixture to cool.

On a small wheel of brie, spread:

  • 1/2 Cup whole-berry cranberry sauce (see recipe above)

Top cranberry sauce with the caramel pears. Wrap the brie with the sheet of puff pastry, sealing pastry underneath. Seal the pastry with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water), cutting off any extra pastry. Use any extra pastry to cut out festive shapes to decorate the top of the brie if you like, as pictured. Brush the top with egg was and bake at 425⁰ until golden, about 20 – 30 minutes. (Note: The photo is the brie before baking).

~

So until next year, here we are, with a handful of holiday memories, a few new resentments, a couple of new recipes for the ‘ol recipe box, some crappy gifts, a couple of store credits, a new blog post, and about five pounds to lose.

What can one say? It’s tradition.

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