Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking at Fat, Driving Flakes and the Reflection of Big Colored Bulbs

Well, this is appropriate weather for Christmas. Looking out my Chicago window I see big, fat flakes falling on even fatter birds bundled up in a tree across the way; it's one of those moments where a mental snapshot is so much more important than an actual snapshots, especially as the forecast calls for rain. Boo. But for right now, the weather is seasonally appropriate, which is a good thing.
A bit of a pre-Christmas celebration dinner tonight: I'll make one of my favorite salads, frying bacon and big, big chunks of red onion, deglaze the pan with vinegar (of which I have another homemade batch a brewin' right now), toss in some thyme and pour the whole warm thing over spinach, a rich dressing made from the bacon fat and vinegar, with the spinach ever so slightly wilting under the heat of it all. Then, we'll roll out some fresh pasta and cut it nice and fat into tagliatelle. While that's happening I'll have some chicken legs braising in a sauce I made for a good friend's winter solstice party last week (for this I fried a nice, big, fat coil of sausage another friend gave me with onions and carrots and celery and fennel and garlic, let everything get nice and caramelized, added red wine and tomatoes and even threw in a couple of cubes of my lamb stock and let it all simmer for a bit. I also wrapped some of the fennel with bacon and roasted the resulting tray of little candy-cane looking tidbits.); the legs will fall apart nicely and the sauce will become a thick, meaty ragout that I will add mushrooms to and toss the tagliatelle in. Just a couple of courses, really, to keep things a bit modest this year. A Whiskey Sour to start, then maybe some champagne, and a nice big bottle of red wine. And to finish it off, a little slice of a chocolate "parfait" as described by Giorgio Locatelli--essentially chocolate melted, egg whites meringued and folded in, followed by cream whipped and folded in. It gets frozen in a pan, then sliced into little squares. He serves it with a chocolate foam; I'm going to forgo the frothing show and crush some roasted almonds to top it with, and candy some mint, dipping fresh leaves into egg whites and dusting with sugar, dehydrating them low and slow in a low, low oven until they are crispy little leaves of sweet mint.

For me, it doesn't get much better than thinking about and executing simple meals like this, especially with the luxury of being able to do so in front of big windows during a snowfall with a purring couple of cats nearby. So wherever you are, find a space in your home and day to do so. It's more than worth it. And happy holidays to you.