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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cooking up a storm

 I have been cooking up a storm lately…and loving it. During our Christmas vacation, each family provided a nightly meal, we went out a couple of times, and we collaborated on Christmas dinner. That was the only time I got to cook—I got responsibility for the turkey. I know some of the girls have cooked them, but they remain a bit squeamish. So I cleaned out the giblets (unanimous vote not to cook them), seasoned it with salt and pepper, rubbed butter under the skin, and roasted it. None of us have mastered altitude cooking but that bird was ready two hours before dinner. Ultimately though it was moist and good, if a tad cool.

Since then I’ve done cheese fondue for Jacob—using the traditional Gruyere and Emmenthaler, which are not cheap. Jacob liked it okay but not as much as last year, and I even felt it was lacking zing. Next year, I think I’ll look for a recipe for cheddar and beer. But the whole thing was fun—he liked the dipping and was horrified when I said if you lost your bread cube in the fondue you had to kiss the other person.

The next night I cooked dinner for four adults and Jacob—neighbors brought ham (they had a ton left over), and a friend brought wonderful sweet potatoes—wedges slightly caramelized but with a hint of cayenne. I fixed black-eyed peas (from scratch, thank you very much) and a spinach casserole. For appetizers, we had dry salami and smoked Gouda a friend had brought me. For dessert—defrosted cookies left over from before our trip.

Saturday night I was home alone and wanted a good dinner, so I got enough bay scallops for me and browned them. Then I gave them a Provencal treatment—olive oil, dry white wine, chopped tomatoes and chopped scallions.

Tonight a couple I’m fond of but don’t often see except in a crowd were supposed to come for supper—I promised just the three of us chickens. Turned out his ticket back to California was for today, not tomorrow. But I pulled out all the stops. Because they are gourmets and she’s an excellent cook, I was stymied and almost resorted to my dinner al fresco platter—small portions of salmon, chicken, tuna, maybe sardines, haricot verts or asparagus, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and whatever else strikes your imagination. It always makes a showy presentation, but it’s a cold supper—and the weather is very cold tonight. Not appropriate.

I decided on a recipe I haven’t tried—herbed lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce. For me, part of the fun of entertaining is trying out new recipes, especially those I know my family won’t eat.  Made it in stages—sauce Friday night, meatballs Saturday, and put it all together Sunday night with a salad. Served in bowls topped with a glop of ricotta and a sprinkling of parsley for decoration. Find the recipe for Herbed Lamb Meatballs in the January 2014 issue of Food & Wine. For appetizer, smoked trout with crackers.

Tomorrow night is Twelfth Night and we traditionally burn a small branch of greens and make a wish for the new year. Five or six adults and Jacob. I’ll make a ground beef and noodle casserole I’ve made before. I got it from Mystery Lovers Kitchen, contributed by Riley Adams who regularly cooks for a large family, including teenage boys. I couldn’t find it in the blog archive, so I hope Riley won’t mind if I repeat it here.

Cheesy, Creamy Beef Noodle Casserole

Cook 6 oz. egg noodles and set aside

Brown 2 lbs. ground beef, with 1 chopped onion, 3 T. chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and sliced mushrooms until beef is brown. Drain

Add to beef mixture: noodles, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 can corn, drained.

Sprinkle about a cup of grated cheese on top (more or less if you wish)

Crush half a package of buttery crackers (I use Ritz) and mix with one half stick butter, melted; distribute evenly on casserole.

Cook 30 minutes, uncovered, at 350. Enjoy! I never said it’s good for your waistline.

May 2014 be a year of happy cooking for you.

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