We have been hosting our New York family to a Boxing Day celebratory dinner now for quite a few years. Amazing to think we have had our Hawthorne Valley farmhouse for close to 9 years now. We fly Christmas Day from Seattle, arriving to the house in the eve. Getting everything ready for hosting a large gathering the next day was a bit of a Herculean feat. As the years have passed, the retail marathon takes more and more out of us. Personally, I could sleep the entire 26th day away. So, in the wise-ness of experience and age, this year we decided to have it on the 27th. Not quite sure why it took us this long to figure that out, so disregard my use of the word ‘wise’ above. Insert very large smile. One other thing we changed is we asked certain family to cook a course. OK, now the word wise is absolutely applicable here. We have an intensely food oriented family. As I have written about before, our niece Caitlin is a chef in New York and our niece Haley is a master baker who is a bread/pastry maker at SeaWolf in Seattle. Our niece Aisling’s partner Matt is also a chef in New York. Our sister-in-law Marian is also one of the best home cooks I have ever met. Along with my husband, who I have learned so much about cooking from over the years, the above would assemble our celebratory supper. Lucky me! This uncle got to sit this one out with Bailey on my lap by the fire with a good glass of red watching everyone cook. I was in heaven. Witnessing people do something they excel at to me is such a beautiful thing. I posted the other day about the gathering and so many folks wanted to know the menu. Here it is with my thoughts along the way. I was however in charge of appetizers and wine. Next week on Wine & Dine Wednesday I will share my plan of attack on that front.
The above the start of setting the table for 13. Of course green. The potted paperwhites from Cedar Farm that I beyond adore that caretaker Bill picked up for us and had waiting at the house for when we arrived. I knew I wanted them simply running down the middle of the table.
The meal would be served in courses, so each cook could be in the kitchen preparing and plating. Most to all had everything prepped before they arrived so just the final searing and composing needed to happen. Our kitchen is open to the dining room so it was an utter delight to watch each of them in action. Let’s just say, we have been doing dishes for the last day—it was incredibly worth every dirty pan and miles of glassware that needed to be washed by hand.
As we all gathered around the table, a toast of thanks was given that we could all be together. We had all been Covid tested that morning and all the tests came back negative. Entertaining safely in these times is quite something.
Caitlin started us off with fruits de mar (lobster, little neck clams, crab, scallops, shrimp) roasted garlic cocktail sauce, lemon, herbs, lots of Grove 45 extra virgin olive oil and toasted baguette. We paired this with a lively Prosecco. The seafood was cooked to perfection and the extra garlicky cocktail sauce she made was heaven. We were off to a stellar start!
TPS was up next. A classic from the beloved Silver Palate cookbook. Tomato dill soup, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream. The secret—a whole lot of slowly cooked til luscious onions and a bit of orange zest. He has been making this divine soup for over 30 years at special meals we host.
Next Haley. Parmesan popovers. A simple twist on the classic popover formula. She mixed together paprika, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese, then filled each popover cup with 1/2” of batter. Added a tablespoon of cheese mixture to each cup, then finish filling cups. This is based on a Joy of Cooking recipe. With that she made seared Chinese broccoli with garlic. She blanched the broccoli for 20 seconds, then let it dry. Then seared it in a pan with minced garlic, apple cider vinegar, and Worcester. Topped with parsley and fennel fronds and flaky salt. I truly could have eaten the entire basket of popovers myself. The depth of flavors on the veg quite something. It added so much to the broccoli which can often be quite bland and this was anything but. A variety of red wines were being enjoyed with these courses.
Matt was next up for the main course. An original Sciubba recipe. Orange, fish sauce and ginger braised duck leg, pan roasted duck breast with blueberry sauce and fennel salad. This duck duo was so out of this world I don’t even know where to begin. Other than to say I am not the biggest fan of duck and I easily could have had seconds and thirds but there was nothing left as he had the portions figured out before plating for all 13 of us. So I will just have to dream about it and hope they come back to visit us soon and that he makes it again for us.
Love and laughter filled the table. Story after story. Course after course. We decided to take a small break and have dessert by the fire out on the back porch. Marian is famous for her pies. They often are works of art, so much so that one is being featured in my upcoming book. This year she made two! Minced pear pie with ginger and a chocolate cream pie. The moans of delight & happiness while we all savored her creations filled the air. The flicker of candlelight and the fire the perfect spot to end the evening as more storytelling and more laughter was on the menu.