Sunday, December 27, 2009
Better Than Sugarplums
Christmas is full of traditions. I already blogged the pizzelles, I make sugar cookies 365, and if we spent the holiday with my family it would mean prime rib and pita. One Christmas back in 1996, Southern Living featured a present cake on its cover. I make it as a red velvet, an old family recipe I am not inclined to share. It has been a staple ever since. It's really too big for just my family, although I have successfully cut down the recipe. But it is a show stopper every time I make the cake as a present. I used to make one for my Christmas party every year, but since I haven't had the blowout party in a number of years, I have to find reasons to make this cake. This year it was Christmas Eve with friends.
The frosting recipe, like many in my repertoire has changed from its original version, that is from trial and error, and I have a difficult time trying to explain these things. This year I made 4 layers of red velvet, about 7X10 each. It was a cute little cake, quite tall. And that frosting....needless to say it was a hit. Here is the recipe for the frosting. Mind you most people like cream cheese frosting on their red velvet. I don't care for cream cheese frosting on anything.
2 cups shortening
1 tea salt
1 tea almond extract
1 tea vanilla
3 16oz. packages of confectioner's sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
Beat until fluffy , makes 7 cups.
The ribbons on the cake are made with fruit by the foot, brushed with water and then sparkling sugar.
On to other traditions. Many years ago when we were spending Christmas just the 4 of us, I decided to do something a little different for Christmas dinner. No one was really excited about prime rib, turkey is a once a year food for us unless you count turkey burgers which appear every Monday night, so I decided fondue. I thought it would be perfect, not too much mess or prep, and after a retail holiday season, easy was my mantra. I have my mom's old copper fondue pot, I have my mother-in-laws old avocado green pot, and I have a copper Ruffoni pot from Williams Sonoma with a ceramic insert of which I was lucky enough to buy an extra insert. So fondue it was, and our own tradition was started. It begins with shredding cheese and cutting veggies, bread, cleaning shrimp, washing fruit and small tasks that everyone can help with. I love that it doesn't abandon the women in the kitchen cooking.
We always start with cheese. Emmental, gruyere, Colby, I have tried them all in various recipes. We dip French bread, roasted fingerling potatoes, steamed broccoli even cauliflower is yummy dunked in wine-laced cheese. It always reminds me of the Alps although I didn't eat this when I was there, but I am certain Grace Kelly may have, and looked fabulous while doing so. Then we move on to meat. The idea of boiling hot oil on the table unnerves me, so I always do beef broth. I boil it first and transfer it to the pot, as if boiling broth can do less bodily harm than boiling oil? We cook beef and shrimp. The beef gets a little grey in color and can take a while to cook if there are lots of forks in the pot, but this year we did the cheese and meat at the same time so the pot was never crowded, and we grilled the steak to rare to give it a head start on cooking and add a little more flavor. I always have an abundance of condiments, steak sauce, BBQ, hot sauce, cocktail sauce, it is all about the dunking, and a fondue plate has all kinds of compartments to sauce up!
This Christmas, the kids are a little older and I thought maybe they would enjoy beef wellington or lobster or something a little more grown up for dinner. There was a resounding NO! This is apparently our tradition, and I can see many years from now my grandchildren gathered around multiple fondue pots on Christmas Day! Honestly, I love the image, it is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy an afternoon.
This year we ate fondue a little later in the day, and we just couldn't muster up the hunger for dessert, of course chocolate fondue, yum. I have said many times that I am not a chocoholic, I like it, but when it comes to dunking a banana or marshmallow in it, well I love it! We decided to wait and do fondue dessert after a nice fish and Ceasar salad dinner a few days after Christmas and opted to eat leftover red velvet cake on Christmas Day. Not a bad trade off. We were lucky enough to find raspberries, strawberries and lady apples to dunk in our fondue, we also added a pear, banana, marshmallows and peppermint Peeps to the mix. I can't imagine eating pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie or even sugarplums (whatever that is) or really anything else for dessert during the holidays, red velvet cake and chocolate fondue, perfect.