Christmas, Food and Drink

Paté

I used to see my father-in-law and my sister-in-law from the first marital go-round whip up something with the livers while our holiday turkey cooked slowly in the oven. I knew they made pate, but what they did to make it appear remained as much a mystery to me as getting an accent mark over the final "e" in this blog post (cut-and-paste worked for the title). 

paté — there it is, but I can't seem to paste it where I want and I get a different font and when I do paste it, I'm sent back to the beginning of the post.

[return]

Cooking by myself, with only the assistance of my children, feels sort of like that. I have ideas, and I paid attention to *some* things, but now that we don't do the holidays themselves with certain parts of the family, I am on my own if I want to make

paté — here we go again.

I looked it up online: turkey liver

paté — sigh —

one message board discouraged the use of turkey liver for such a purpose, as it has too strong a flavor. A blog suggested using such massive amounts of butter that I felt sure eating the product would be unwise.

Finally I decided to fake it, based on what I remembered as best I could, and #1 Son offered to help, since he was in the kitchen helping bring about Christmas dinner anyway. It seemed appropriate that #1 Son should help me, since I ate my first

paté

(that's getting tiresome now)

while
pregnant with him. After that I craved it, and I remember making a
homemade version in the blender. It was 1986 or 7, and it would be many
years before I had a food processor. I don't know if this version
really meets the definition.

paté — yes, the cursor went back to the start again, but here we go with the recipe:

Ingredients for Turkey Liver Pate (just imagine the accent mark this time)–

turkey livers as found in your bird, chopped in small pieces

one onion, chopped small (ours was medium)

half a stick of butter

one apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

We put all of this in a saute pan (not even going there on the accent mark, I hope you understand) and cooked until the livers were medium well, by my standards, then added a little red wine.

So

1/4 cup red wine

There were some spices, too:

Salt

Ground pepper

Cinnamon (a sprinkle)

Nutmeg (a little less even)

Fennel seeds–I had nothing to do with this, it happened behind my back and the only measurement admitted by #1 Son was "a few seeds."

I guess these were all actually there before the wine.

We brought this to a boil, then took it off the heat and added

1/4 cup half and half (though I must admit these liquid measurements are approximate)

We put it all into the food processor and let fly!

Then we put it in a bowl, because there are no small terrines here, Santa. You might want to consider that next year. We refrigerated it about an hour.

paté — wow, it was a long way back that time — was served along with cheese and crackers before Christmas dinner and declared delicious by all — well, except maybe Pure Luck, who ate some when I told him to close his eyes and then gave it to him on a cracker. "It's not anything I would seek out on my own."

Oh well.

This whole Christmas felt like a return to "home," as I realized I was doing things not to suit anyone else but because they were things *I* liked to do. I ironed a tablecloth, and I chose particular glasses that made one of my children laugh and another ask how to pick up such a long-stemmed contraption. I made gravy the way my former sister-in-law taught me, but fixed stuffing from a box just like my mother. We had a good meal and a rousing game of Apples to Apples over dessert.

We were six, my husband and I and the three children and their father.

We laughed until tears came into my eyes, more than once. We read the Christmas cards from far and near and looked at pictures of weddings and babies and cousins and friends and the grandchildren of schoolmates (well, not my schoolmates).

And it felt like 

paté

not what everyone else would seek out on a Christmas night, but somehow right for us.

Food and Drink

Joanna’s Molasses Ginger Snap Cookies

***I made cookies for tomorrow's fair at Large Church, where they have a Cookie Walk. Over the years I sold Christmas stockings and ornaments with the Mother's Group, and even worked as the lunch cashier with Baby LP on my back. I hope they have a successful day tomorrow and that these cookies are a hit.***

This recipe came from a treasured member of Small Church; in my recipe file, they carry her name. A double batch made about six dozen.

¾ cup shortening (I used the butter-flavored Crisco this time–delicious!)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger

Cream shortening, add sugar, egg, molasses, then dry ingredients.  Form into a ball.  Roll in sugar.

Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees, for 9 minutes at most.  (Check at 7 or 8 minutes.)

Chez Songbird, Children, Crazy Busy, Food and Drink

Slow Cooking

Because I've worked every day since I returned from vacation, I took off early yesterday and have a full day off today. All three of my children are here, as well as #1 Son's new friend, Pretty Poet. She arrived by bus from Slice of the Big Apple yesterday.  We spent part of the afternoon looking at his baby pictures and most of the rest cooking another ridiculously complicated and delicious dinner. #1 Son is clearly his grandfather's grandson. Papa has always cooked for pleasure, studying with James Beard years ago in a class at Beard's brownstone, making every family meal an event. #1 Son and I thought up the menu, and he expanded it by including everything in the refrigerator that could possibly be a part of it.

After reading Michael Pollan's article in the NY Times Magazine (online version, I admit) and then hearing the interview with him on Fresh Air last week, I want to cook more. I want to be part of a movement to keep cooking alive! But wow! Really cooking things takes a lot of time. The big meals we cooked this week reminded me of cooking on holidays. They felt like Summer Festivals of Dinner!

When we played D&D the other night with the kids and Snowman's good friend, Underhill, I planned to cook, but Pure Luck suggested pizza instead. Why? Because if we cooked, the boys and I, he could see we would never get around to playing!

Hubert Chopping things takes time (unless you are working with Hubert Keller).

Cooking sauce instead of simply heating it takes time.

Yesterday we made pesto to serve on tortellini, as well as red sauce with vidalia onion and grape tomatoes and fresh basil to serve over linguini. #1 Son created a vegetable dish of rainbow chard and baby carrots and more vidalia, with chili powder and red pepper flakes. We bought the chicken sausage and a big crusty loaf, and we didn't even make dessert, but the whole thing took hours. We sat down to the meal as if finally going to a long-awaited party, and every bite tasted delicious.

Washing up takes a long time, too, when you have spun greens in the salad spinner and used the food processor and cooked in every pot you own and served the dishes family style at the table. I got a load into the dishwasher last night then came down to finish cleaning up this morning.

I was, you see, exhausted, and the young people had gone out to a concert.

Another load is washing now, and I washed all the knives by hand and returned them to the knife block. A few stray pot lids remain in the sink.

I loved cooking with them, and I think one of the factors Pollan didn't mention is that in the old slow-cooking days, when you had to catch the chicken and butcher it yourself before you could eat it, people cooked together. Life centered around the home. Most of the time more than one person helped prepare the meals, at all levels of society. Now, not only do people commute and work long hours outside our homes, which means we take and perhaps need short-cuts in our more solitary cooking, we seem to be losing the art of the family dinner. I'm not sure how to overcome this trend. LP and I, when we are the only two at home, will sit in front of whatever is on The Learning Channel and eat together. Our kitchen table functions as my home office, and the big dining room table feels, well, big for two people. We're cozier perched on the sofa.

I'd like to thing it's eating together that matters most, but I'm beginning to feel cooking together counts, too. I'm glad my sons both know how to cook and enjoy doing it. Now we just need to bring LP along, too. Maybe we need to hand her a knife and let her simply start chopping.