There were so many dishes I wanted to try for Christmas Eve dinner. But I marked one of two of my list because I didn't want to offer too many starches, though in the end, I did. Didn't want sweet potato souffle AND mustard-roasted red potatoes. Also wanted to offer a plethora of colors instead of going with a dominant white/yellow/brown palette.
Ian deep fried a ham. It was a pre-cooked spiral sliced ham that he immersed in peanut oil for 5-7 minutes. This was well-away from the house, out back in our driveway. Every time we tell people that we deep fried a turkey at Thanksgiving and a ham at Christmas they mention statistics about how many people burn down their homes by using deep fryers. But Ian is careful, just not mindful enough with the ham. He kept it in the oil a minute or so too long. Parts of it were black, but once you got past that, the innards were tasty. He wasn't so thrilled with it. We're always our own worst critic, no?
There was no recipe about it, although I found scant information online somewhere that told how long to cook it.
My macaroni and cheese recipe came from the James Villas cookbook, The Glory of Southern Cooking (2007) I've scoured for months. It was great. My stepmother asked for the recipe and doled out huge helpings, seconds, and thirds, on the mac n cheese.
Peas with goat cheese and bacon came from Cook's Country, the December issue, I think. It's my new favorite cooking magazine, then again, I've paid closer attention to Gourmet and Bon Appetit of late than I have in the past. . Haven't subscribed to it, yet. My postal carrier creases every magazine arriving at my mailbox down the middle and CC is oversized. But back to peas: Easy, quick, and delicious. Made with a bag of frozen peas, bacon grease drippings, and either half and half or heavy whipping cream. A few scallions, and the goat cheese. Maybe salt and pepper to taste. Yum. As someone who never liked peas, I must say that it was lovely and a dish I'll repeat again and again.
Sweet potato souffle is the standard I make for every holiday and I got its recipe from Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life (1999) by Michael Lee West. I've made the topping incorrectly for several years and when I tried to make it the "correct" way once, it just wouldn't do. I cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave add the butter, evaporated milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and then add the topping and pop it into my oven.
Also tried Alabama Biscuit Muffins from the Villas cookbook. It's just a wealth of recipes, many that I'm aching to try. These biscuits came out well. Crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. When Ian's Dad stopped by later, he snacked on a cold one and raved.
Tried the Vidalia onion and goat cheese pie from Villas' cookbook. It was fine and I got several requests for its recipe. I whipped it up Christmas morning so we could bring it to Ian's brother's home for our Stokes family gathering. They weren't vidalia onions, but they were still, slightly sweet, and tasty.
Finally made the Sandra Lee bark. It was okay. I never ate a bite of it though. Strange, but true. I hold a grudge.
We had Christmas Day lunch at my sister-in-law's house. She sets a pretty table. The menu was atypical, but much appreciated: Prime Rib, green beans with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, my onion pie, and bread.
Then that evening we went to my mom's house for slightly lighter fare. She cooked her ham in a mixture of pineapple juice and something else. Can't quite recall what exactly she did, now. But I think her table, her whole dining room, in fact, personifies the idea of a Southern dining room table; food and decor.
And then another recipe I tried of Villas' was for bleu cheese straws. A few nights prior to Christmas I doubled the recipe and combined the ingredients in my mixer. I moaned about not having a food processor. Later, after opening gifts Christmas morning, Ian admitted that he almost caved, almost gave me my food processor early so I wouldn't struggle with that cheese straw dough. The recipe was simple. I rolled out the dough and used a fondant embosser to cut my dough into appropriate-sized pieces. We took them along to Aleda's for Christmas lunch and everyone loved them. And hated me because they were so addictive. Then later, Josie stopped by on her way back home to Atlanta. She said they looked professionally done and couldn't believe I made them. I bagged up a batch for her to take to her mother. Seems like each time Josie comes to town I end up sending something home with her to her mother to apologize for the scant thirty minutes or an hour that Josie visits with me. At least Peggy gets cake, or bleu cheese straws, as the case was, this time.