So you thought it was going to be a lot of work, all this holiday cooking? We know, just thinking about it can be exhausting. The spirit of fussy Martha Stewart dueling with the ghost of drop-the-turkey-on-the-floor Julia Child? Top Chef duking it out with Iron Chef? Paula Dean versus Rachael Ray? It's enough to make you send for Chinese takeout.
And yet there's a way to get through the season without feeling totally guilty. Make a list or two, buy some decorations, set a pretty table, cook one big thing. "Constantly remind yourself that holiday entertainment is fun!" writes Diane Morgan, a Portland author of cookbooks. "Be playful in the kitchen."
Morgan, who's also written books about Thanksgiving and everyday grilling, is bringing her latest tome, The Christmas Table, to Seattle this weekend for book-signings and demos (schedule below). Like all good writers, she makes it look easy, and warns you when it's not.
Take the centerpiece of Christmas dinner, the turkey. Morgan wants you to soak it for a day or so in a brine flavored with juniper, which most folks won't do because they don't have a 20-gallon stockpot and a spare refrigerator. But Morgan has a work-around: you put your bird into a turkey-roasting bag (double-bagged for safety), add the brine, seal it up tightly, and set it into a roasting pan that slides into your fridge. Nothing could be simpler!
As for the bûche de Noël, she admits that's a bit more complicated, with five full pages of text, including detailed instructions for concocting meringue mushrooms. (Two egg whites and 2/3 cup of sugar make 30 mushrooms, in case you were wondering.) For side dishes, it's all downhill: shred the Brussels sprouts, puree the celery root, whip the yams!
And when you're standing around waiting for something to come out of the oven, you can spray-paint your own decorations with Rust-Oleum leather brown and gold metallic for the fruits and nuts. When you finally sit down (to the astonishment of your family and the awe of your friends), you'll realize it was worth all the effort: your very own holiday tradition!
Want a complimentary copy for yourself? Chronicle Books will send one to the first Cornichon reader who sends a request to inyourglass (at) gmail.com; please include your mailing address.
Metropolitan Market Sandpoint, 5250 40th Ave NE, Saturday noon-2
Metropolitan Market Admiral, 2320 42nd Ave SW, Saturday 4-6
The International Kitchen
Cooking school vacations in Italy, France & Spain.