tasty nom nom an exception to the daily meal


He Himself – The Grinch – Carved the Roast Beast

Dear E --

Merry Christmas! (hey, Russian Christmas isn't until 7 January)

Just after Thanksgiving we were discussing Christmas dinner. N and G sounded like they really wanted a spiral sliced ham for Christmas dinner. I thought it was cheating -- someone else cooks the main dish? -- but when no other decisions were made about the very important meat, I ordered a 7lb ham from The Honeybaked Ham Company.

I was under the (mistaken) impression that this ham was to be heated up before serving. I have never had room temperature ham for dinner. When I found out it was to be room temperature, I admit I freaked out. What the heck goes with room temperature ham?

christmas dinner
the table

I conferred with you, N and my mom. Mom suggested that a fruit salad or applesauce was necessary to cut the saltiness of the ham. I decided that I wanted either scalloped potatoes or macaroni and cheese. N decided that he would make latkes, which left me with macaroni and cheese.

If you're making macaroni and cheese for Christmas, it better be freaking awesome mac n cheese.

Indeed. Enter Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese. Also known as "Crack 'n Cheez." Sure enough.

crack 'n cheez
crack 'n cheese

I made one change to the recipe that I stole from a different macaroni and cheese recipe. Instead of topping the crack-n-cheez with homemade breadcrumbs as Martha instructs, I used panko. I thought the panko would give it an even crustier top and I really think it was a great modification. I think I also added a touch more nutmeg and cayenne.

I'm not sure why, but every time I make a béchamel / mornay sauce, it takes me two or three times longer to get the sauce to thicken than the recipe states. Maybe the lengthier arm workout helps counter the impending caloric intake!

N and I open gifts on Christmas Eve. I had planned to make Joy the Baker's Parker House Rolls on Christmas, but Santa Mom sent me Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I decided I'd like to try out one of the recipes in the cookbook and went with the Classic White Bread made into pull-apart rolls.

E's plate

I had to add a lot of additional water to the dough -- it was incredibly dry. I believe this was because my house was extra dry with the heater running nonstop. I just kept adding water bit by bit and checked the dough look and performed the windowpane test a few times. I kneaded it in my mixer until my mixer started to smell, then I kneaded it by hand, then I kneaded it some more in the mixer (seriously). It could have had even more (!) kneading but at that point it was close enough and I was running out of time.

The dough rose while I took the dogs on a nice long walk in the cold. When I returned, I formed the dough into balls. Due to wanting to cook them all at once on a single cookie sheet, I ended up placing the balls next to one another so they rose up into one another for the second rise. I was a little worried they wouldn't pull apart as well as advertised. Before baking, I brushed them with an egg whisked with a teaspoon of water which gave them a lovely crust after baking. They pulled apart fine! I'll make this recipe again.

For dessert, you and I had some of your delicious pumpkin cheesecake. Mmm, my favorite!

After dessert and coffee, we played five rounds of our mindless default game, Bohnanza (BGG). Bohnanza is a good game to play while tipsy!

N can't wait until the next time we have ham. Any bets on when the crack 'n cheese will be requested?

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