Now that my daughter is older, and my Grandparents are no longer with us, I notice our Christmas traditions evolving. We still open presents on Christmas Eve, we still pop open Christmas crackers and wear paper crowns. But this year, my now teenage daughter jokingly suggested on Christmas Eve we should eat sushi, watch Silence Of The Lambs, then open presents to make us feel better. I though why not, sounds like fun. So that is exactly what we did, and it was fun. A new family tradition? We’ll have to wait and see.
Christmas always makes me nostalgic. When we were kids we lived next door to my mom’s parents. They were from Arkansas and Oklahoma, and though my mom couldn’t wait to leave Oklahoma and move to California, she still mentions the thunder storms, her own grandmother’s cooking, and other childhood memories. I suppose I’d like to keep some family traditions alive, so occasionally I will make something like chicken and dumplings for dinner, and ask my mom is it’s anything like her grandmother’s.
So on Christmas Day I indulged these nostalgic feelings, and made fried chicken. I had luckily found a copy of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home, (which is sold out until February!) and one of the first recipes in it is fried chicken. This recipe is a process, but well worth it. First there’s a twelve hour brine. Lemons, thyme, parsley, honey, bay leaves, pepper corns, garlic, I tell you the smell of the brine alone was glorious. I wanted to dab it behind my ears.
There’s no way the chicken and brine was going to fit in my fridge, so I used Alton Brown’s trick of making the brine with half the water, then once it was cool I added the remaining water in the form of ice, which kept the whole thing nice and cold in an ice chest overnight.
After twelve hours the chicken pieces are rinsed and left at room temperature for an hour and a half. I dredged in well seasoned flour, dipped in buttermilk, dredged again. The instructions are very specific about oil temperature and timing. This chicken is delicious. Hands down the best I’ve ever made or eaten. I cannot wait to try another recipe from this book.
On the side I made some simple mashed potatoes with buttermilk, and collard greens. My dear friend Jean had made these collards for me recently, and I can’t get enough of them. Saute onion and the chopped stems of the collards in olive oil until soft. Throw in heaps of minced garlic then add the chopped collards & a handful of chopped dried cranberries. Once the greens are cooked to your liking add seasoning and a tablespoon or so of soy sauce. The soy sauce really makes the dish. Delicious and beautiful.
For dessert, a family recipe, brownie pie. This is really a pecan pie, but we’ve always called it brownie pie. It’s good no matter what you call it. It’s a basic recipe, but in comparing it to other recipes I think ours is less sweet. For the pie crust I used the new ipod app Ratio . Don’t get me started on the wonders of this app. I took Michael Ruhlman’s advice & added an egg and some chopped pecans to the dough. You can use whatever pie crust you prefer.
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, well beaten
½ cup sugar
¾ cup dark corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans, more for decorating top if desired
1 unbaked pie crust
Melt chocolate and butter together. Mix sugar and corn syrup with beaten eggs, then blend in chocolate and butter mixture. Add pecans and a pinch of salt. Pour this into an unbaked pie crust. Bake at 300º for 40-50 minutes. Pie is done when a toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean, and there’s no more wobble. A dollop of whipped cream is an unnecessary but welcome addition. Simple and a pleasure to eat.