Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Other Whaling Town III - Christmas 2012


I always go to Nantucket for Christmas.   This is the second year that I've made the journey from Hudson - sometimes known as the other whaling town (if I'm posting about it from Nantucket) - to Nantucket - the other whaling town as I write from Hudson.  And, it's the second year that I've left a half unpacked and situated house to make the trip.  Last year I had just moved to Hudson from NYC and was living in a rental house surrounded by boxes that contained a lifetime of collected goods.  This year, two yard sales later, it seems as if that collection has doubled when I moved into my new, just purshased home.  How did that happen and where will I put everything?
I digress.

Allegra and I made the trip across the Mass Pike, and down I 495 in record time - and, I did not get a speeding ticket like I did last year.  We arrived in Hyannis and jumped on a little plane that took us across the last 30 miles to the island - as opposed to taking a 2 hour ferry ride.  We arrived to a somewhat balmy Nantucket.  The island stayed pretty clement the whole I was there.  That smokey sou'wester that was blowing kept the island temperate.  So much for schlepping piles of winter warm winter clothes.  Happens every time.

Christmas Eve afternoon includes a trip to downtown Nantucket for the red ticket drawing.  The event, sponsered by the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce was begun as a way to get islanders to shop locally instead of going to the mainland for their holiday purchases.   Particpating merchants give a red ticket for every $25.00 spent by shoppers at their businesses.  This year shoppers spent a whopping 9.5 million dollars on the island. (are you listening Hudson?).  Tickets are drawn at the Christmas Eve event.  There are five $1,000. winners and one $5,000.00 winner.  Even people who don't win a prize are happy to be at the Main Street event where the atmosphere is full of good cheer.

Meals at my sister and brother-in-law's home (where I stay) are always delicious - but nothing quite beats a plate of  just shucked, simply sauteed Nantucket bay scallops.  The scallops are, of course, the most prestigious of  all fluted-shell creatures.  Take it from me, without prejudice. 


Laura, my sister, sauteed some chopped garlic (from her garden) in olive oil.  When the the garlic was slightly golden she added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a splash of dry white Vermouth.   Then added the scallops and cooked them 'til they were just opaque - 60 - 90 seconds.  They got a sprinkle of freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve.  They should be served with something to sop up the briny, bright pan juices.  For our dinner the scallops were served with olive-oil rubbed, toasted Bonfiglio & Bread baguette, imported from Hudson.


Our main Christmas day meal is "breakfast" - crepes, with various fillings from savory to sweet and back again - which is usually eaten sometime in mid-afternoon, or at 5pm,  or even later.  Regardless of the hour, the job of making them goes to Jimmy, my brother-in-law.
This year, in addition to some of the classic fillings; last summer's blueberries and honey, and maple syrup and mascarpone, we also wrapped the very custardy, thin-as-paper pancakes around slices of delicately smoked sturgeon, and brandied cherries with creme fraiche.


Boxing Day - the day after Christmas.  Legitimately called that by one of the hosts of the party that I attended on that day.  She is half Swedish and half English.  It was her Swedish side that was featured in the generous smorgasbord of food that was offered.    Baked ham with nostril-flaring homemade mustard sauce, Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce and horseradish cream sauce, smoked salmon on brown bread, beet and herring salad  (a Swedish Christmastime-only salad) that includes apples, dill and sour cream among its other ingredients, the absolute best Jansson's Temptation - potato and anchovy casserole (with plenty of butter and cream)- that I've ever tasted, and was told that I could have the recipe only if I insured the maker that I would get Swedish anchovies - which really aren't anchovies but instead sprats preserved in brine, "anchovy-style".   So, the next time you or I go to IKEA and get some anchovies, I'll get the recipe.

And,  Steve's Mashed Potatoes pureed to a silky-smooth texture with milk, butter, cheddar cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper.
And, Anna's Lemon Pie:
.   Make the pie crust with 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into bits, 1/2 cup powdred sugar, 2 tablespoons ice water.  Blend the ingredients together, form a ball, flattened the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.   Roll out and cover the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish or fluted tart pan with removable sides.  Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes.   then add a filling made with 4 eggs and 1 cup sugar whipped until fluffy. Add the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 3 lemons,  and 2 tablespoons sour cream, creme fraiche or heavy cream.  Pour into the crust and bake for another 15 minutes or until the filling is set.  Let cool and serve garnished with a shower of powdered sugar.

Then there were drinks with friends and a walk or two with Allegra.   It seems to be too much - but then again, never enough.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sinkless Kitchen

I've moved into my new house and am faced with the overwhelming task of unpacking everything
and finding places for it all.  Didn't I just do this a year ago?  Yes.  But this time it's for real - I own the place.  The house that I lived in all of last year, my first year in Hudson, was a rental.  After about a month and a half I realized that although the house was roomy and in a nice neighborhood, I felt that the landlady was watching my every move and I kind of gave up on decorating desires (holes in the walls, moving furniture on her precious floor, etc.).  Not to mention cooking.  While  I did make some delectable dishes on the the $300. Sears range (which I shared with you on occasion) - it was an unsatisfying experience in many ways.   Baking was just about out of the question - cakes got tough on the outside and remained gooey and almost raw on the inside.  Forget about my favorite  pizza.  It was never right

I bought a beautiful Electrolux Professional series range for the new house.  It's a sturdy workhorse that resembles its more well-known colleagues; the Wolf and the Viking - and costs just a tad under those celebrity cookers.  My reasoning for choosing the Electrolux over the others was because I had lived with a Viking for years in the City - and while it was beloved - it cost a small fortune to repair (same reason I gave up my Volvo once I moved upstate and I was doing more than just recreational driving) - the Electrolux is more main stream and easier to repair.  At least I think so.

My kitchen is painted Majorelle blue - the color made famous by Yves Saint Laurent in the gardens that he rescued and restored on his Marrakech property.  My contractors called the color "blurple" - which what it is - a deep cobalt lightened with undertones of purple.   The range is installed  (the inside of the oven is also blue, like speckled- blue camping tinware) - as is the refrigerator (in the pantry - which used to be a tiny bedroom off the kitchen).  The uninstalled dishwasher is there - but the sink is not.  It's due to arrive any second.  So my cooking attempts have been very limited - Oh, did I say that I don't have any work surfaces to speak of.  Yet.   It's not ideal to use the bathroom sink and bathtub as water and dishwashing sources.  So, I've stayed very simple.  Oatmeal.  Salads.  Pasta.  You know.

In a week or two this blog should start communicating the results of cooking experiments in the new kitchen.   Did I mention that the kitchen faces southwest giving me a lovely view of the Catskill Mountains - and now, with the leaves missing from the trees, a sliver of the Hudson River.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time at the new Bonfiglio & Bread (still no website - you can "like" them on Facebook, however) here in Hudson on upper Warren Street feeding my carbohydrate addiction.   And everyday there are new choices.  Last week I had lunch with friends and chose Bonfiglio's panade.   Panade is most often asscociated with onion soup but really it's a savory bread pudding and the ideal dish to make with leftover bread and other things that are hanging around the kitchen. 

To inspire you - here's what Rachel, of Bonfiglio did for the panade (at least I deduced) that I ate:
.  Soaked some of the bakery's leftover bread, sliced, (but cubed bread is good in a preparation like this too) in their leftover butternut squash soup.  Baked the mixure with grated cheese  - maybe cheddar - in a round pan.
.   Served a VERY generous wedge of the butternut squash panade on a bed of sauteed kale (also leftover) with a chopped fresh parsley and red onion salad.
.   You can't ask for more goodness.


r.i.p. Allegra's cousins, and new friend; Dewey, Hercules, and Roxanne