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?
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.