Cassoulet for Christmas Eve dinner! For those not familiar with this French comfort food dish, the closest thing I can kind of compare it to is gumbo. You soak white beans overnight (I was a bit short so added a small bit of kidney beans which were fine as well), then boil them in broth with a smoked pork hock, whole onion, whole head of garlic, bay/parsley/thyme, plus I tossed in the last of my sundried tomatoes made this summer. While simmering 2 hours you fry up pork belly, homemade saucisson sec and after the beans are done, add the meat from the hock (and chicken or duck, but I totally forgot poultry until it was too late) and then layer it with the beans and meat on a layer of pig skin (yep, we happened to have some all rolled up in the freezer after Dan’s charcuterie camp take-home “prizes”…but you can use lard or duck fat as a substitute) and cook it low and slow, with breadcrumbs on top if desired, for 2 hours. Yum.
And, in an additional bit of perfection? It snowed on Christmas Eve, with a light blanket on the ground that confused the hell out of the ducks in the funniest way and brought that nice bit of quiet to the neighborhood, where it seems like just about everyone decided to go out of town this year. We ate, cuddled up on the sofa and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, Dan baked us insanely delicious butterscotch pears for dessert (let me tell you, that Scotch we got this fall is almost gone already and using it for the pears is even better than sipping it straight or in an Old Fashioned…), and we finished off our last Eve in this home.
Ah yes, and I mustn’t forget Christmas Day, where I made eggnog french toast for brekkie (note to self: never use sourdough again, always use challah or brioche for the best flavor!), we lollygagged around most of the day, and for our Italian-inspired dinner (we like to celebrate a different country each meal during the holidays, with Xmas Eve being French, last year was Mexican, and the prior year was Cuban), Dan made homemade duck egg semolina tagliatelle pasta with wild mushroom cream sauce and a cold green bean salad with fried home-cured Genoa salami (so freakin’ good), and I threw together a quick rosemary olive oil bread to go with it and an apple crisp topped with homemade whipped cream for dessert. YUM. Honestly I think I liked this even better than the meat-laden cassoulet! Anyhow, as this was not a traditional holiday for us, as we choose to celebrate with tree and gifts and such every other year, beyond a simple card for each other, the only surprise involved was one that I got for Dan in honor of not only his Australian heritage but of our very first Christmas together in Melbourne (see photo on the far right as I had clearly no clue why I was wearing a paper crown!) – Christmas crackers! For my fellow countryfolk who are like, huh?, they are these tube like things where each person pulls one end and, kind of like breaking a wishbone, someone wins by getting the middle section (which has a Crackerjack-type toy in it, paper hats that are always too small for our big heads, and a dumb joke) and it makes a large popping/cracking sound when you do it. He couldn’t believe I’d never heard of them when we met so for this holiday I found some online and ordered them just in time to make him smile. A nice, low-key holiday.