Friday, December 25, 2015

It was MY Birthday until 6:00 p.m. then it was Christmas Eve.

(At least that’s what my Mother always said…)

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Thursday and could not go back to sleep. So, I read in bed instead. I got up and got a cup of coffee when I heard others stirring in the house.

Sidebar: Until then, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!

It was cloudy and overcast, but really warm. Jake and I made a quick run to Kroger’s to pick up six last minute items.

Back at the house, I shaved, showered and got dressed. Then I got to work!!!

Their kitchen is small, so Jake and I prepped for both today’s and the Christmas dinner. Carla directed our efforts (she is the Executive Chef here, after all), taste-tested and final seasoned everything.

First item on the list was my birthday cake. We made a pineapple upside-down cake (my favorite) in the cast iron skillet. I turned the brown sugar and butter into a caramel on the stove while Jake made the cake batter. The main spice is this recipe was crushed cardamom seeds, BTW. I put the pineapple rings into the caramel (slightly overlapping), poured on the batter and we stuck it in the oven.

Next, Jake was prepping the filet mignon for the beef Wellington (it had been siting in the fridge, unwrapped and drying out overnight). Carla was prepping the mushrooms (shitake and crimini) and leeks for roasting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I was making the parsnip puree. I peeled a pound of parsnips, cut them into thin rounds and put them, along with butter and thin-sliced garlic, in milk and heavy cream. I brought that to a boil and then simmered them until soft.

Sidebar: Softer than you would if you were just making boiled parsnips, BTW.

When the parsnips were done, Jake used a stick blender and pureed them. Carla added just the right amount of seasoning and we called that done.

Jake seared the meat on two sides and then pulled it off. It will bake to medium rare in the oven tomorrow.

Then, I sautéed mushrooms, garlic and shallots in the same skillet for the duxelle (the mushroom mixture that is spread between the meat and the puff pastry). When they were done, I took them out and put them in a bowl to cool.

Finally, Christmas dinner was basically prepped. So, we started on my Birthday dinner: clam chowder.

Jake peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes while I fine-diced an onion and garlic. Carla was rinsing the cooked, fresh baby neck clams.

Sidebar: As you can probably tell, this is not the Captain’s famous recipe for his clam chowder. Since I don’t have a reliable seafood store nearby, mine uses canned chopped clams and other, secret, ingredients.

The potatoes and onion went into a bath of milk, strained clam juice and heavy cream, brought to a boil and then simmered until the potatoes were cooked.

I sautéed some thick cut bacon lardons until crispy for the soup garnish.

Carla taste-tested the soup and then added salt and a lot of black pepper.

Sidebar: Like parsley and chicken noodle soup, black pepper and clam chowder are best friends.

The clams then went in and cooked another two minutes. One last taste-test, a little more seasoning and the soup was pulled and left to cool.

Sidebar: One result of having three cooks in the kitchen, all taste-testing and offering their suggestions, is an enormous amount of dirty teaspoons. Nobody want to double dip, you see. Thank God for dishwashers!

We took a break, watching TV and chatting for the rest of the afternoon. Carla did tell me to take a nap when she saw me melting into the couch, so I did. I woke up just before 3:00 p.m., refreshed.

Finally, it was dinner time. We ate in the dining room. Jake taped up a happy birthday banner he printed off the computer on the wall over the table. He put out some crackers out while Carla warmed up three bowls of chowder.

I wasn’t allowed to do anything at this point, BTW.

Each bowl received some bacon and we dug in.


It was truly an epic meal!

Then they cut into the cake, stuck a candle on the first piece, lit it and brought it to me. I made my wish (a secret, of course), blew it out and we ate dessert.

The cake was excellent. The sweetness of the topping was offset by the spiciness of the cake.

Jake and Carla cleaned up while I waddled to the couch.

We decided it was too late to start a movie, so we watched taped shows (both Family Guy and Chopped – outrageous comedy and cooking; the perfect combination!) until bedtime.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of this famous, first time in 17 years, Christmas full moon. But it was cloudy and no moon was in sight. Sigh…

Now I suppose I’ll have to stay alive for another 17 years, dammit!!!


  1. Hmmm
    Two of my favorites, and my invite got lost in the mail.
    Merry Christmas

  2. @ GPF: Wow! We wondered why you didn't show up! Merry Christmas to you!!!