Monday, January 4, 2016

Mmmm Monday: Holiday Food

Most Mondays I'll post something about what we've been cooking. This is a monster entry, as we've had quite the adventures...

My work slows down a bit after Christmas Eve and we stayed home, so there was plenty of opportunity to cook, smoke, grill, and bake this holiday season. My parents visited, so more mouths to feed and more ideas to consider.

Here's a non-exhaustive (but somewhat exhausting) list:

Holiday cookies: My usual toffee bars, and a new chocolate cookie dough recipe, half with peanut butter chips and half with Andes candies

Hot cocoa mix, for gifting and home use

Christmas Eve: 
Tamales (traditional pork and king ranch chicken, prepared at our annual tamalada in November) with chili gravy, queso, and guacamole

Christmas Day breakfast (above): 
Panettone Strawberry-chocolate chip bread pudding
Eggs Benedict (which turned into queso eggs, as I made the hollandaise too soon, and it broke miserably)

Christmas Dinner: 
Ribeye roast (dry-brined forty-eight hours in advance, it was gloriously juicy and beefy. But that juiciness meant that there were very few drippings, so no au jus or Yorkshire puddings) 
with fluffy rolls, mashed potatoes, sherried mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, and roasted Brussels sprouts

Monday, December 28: Pork shoulder smoked on our gas grill - we did two of them--totally overkill. So much meat in my freezer...

Tuesday: Batch of charro beans, with some of the pulled pork

Wednesday, December 30: 12-hour brisket smoked on our gas grill - we took the advice to wrap it in a double layer of foil when it hit 150 degrees, pushing it through the "stall" that  can last for hours. Next time I'll mess with unwrapping it later, so we get the bark back. Math: a 14-lb brisket gave about six pounds of sliced meat, and we cooked down the fat cap for about a pound of "brisket bits" and a pint or so of brisket fat. The bits are a quick pop of flavor in just about anything, and a dab of the fat gives a deep base for soup, onions, etc.

Pies: I meant to make pie for Christmas, but it was eighty degrees here. So we had New Year's Eve pie. Pumpkin and cherry-blueberry. 
I made my first lard crusts from the lard I rendered for tamales--they came out flaky, but were a bit thick and needed more salt. (I tasted the porkiness, but no one else mentioned it...)

Chex Mix. Because holidays require Chex Mix.

New Year's Eve ended up being something of a repeat of Christmas Eve, menu-wise, with the addition of a cheese slate and the grape leaves a friend brought over. (Tamale course was beef tamales and roasted garlic&cheese tamales.)

New Year's Day I decided the charro beans were close enough to black-eyed peas, and the coleslaw would count for greens. So we just made a cornbread--spouse found the hidden penny.

Using up the pork was an adventure all its own, as I don't really eat non-bacon pork. So I became a pork pusher, setting out hashes, salsa-infused pork and rice (thank you, rice cooker), a penne with pork and red sauce, and a giant tray of pork nachos.

Since I'm always encouraging my sons to cook, I got them tools and kits for mushroom ravioli this year. Firstborn has oyster mushrooms growing upstairs, and secondborn opened his cheese-making kit yesterday. He made his first batch of mozzarella (yum!) and I used the whey to make a ridiculously small amount of ricotta. I think I'll go for whole milk ricotta next time. 

This morning's experiment was looking for a use for a package of bacon rind (not the fried stuff) a friend got with her half-hog purchase. I'd found this recipe online, and it seemed simple enough. In reality, I think it was meant for more delicate rind, if there is such a thing- ours turned into shards of pain. Breaking a tooth is never a good adventure, so the remainder of the rind was cut into squares for the stock pot. Spouse will have many flavorful pots of soup and beans over the winter.

A last experiment for the holiday was a batch of rolls, using some of the whey from yesterday's cheese as the liquid. YUM! I accidentally duplicated a taste from a long-closed restaurant nearby. (Good Eats at Wilcrest and Westheimer.) 

Tomorrow is back to a full work schedule and the kids are back to school. The good news is, the freezer is full of food for easy dinners in the month (or three) ahead.