Normally we would have a big feast that requires multiple cooks on Christmas, but with the guys engaged in a construction project-with-deadline, I was pretty much it till dark, so D and I settled on a fairly simple meal to cook. It turned out to be extremely good, too.
I got six of those pricey, thick lamb chops at Berkeley Bowl on the 24th – remarkable work by their staff – they were serving people at a great rate, with big smiles and no sense of rushing. The chops cost $14.99/lb, and for 6 of them it was about $35. Good, though. I trimmed off all the fat I could before marinating. D mentioned sesame oil when we discussed these, so I decided just to try scaling down the marinade for Lamb Merlot, from one of our earliest, serious cookbooks, California Fresh, from the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay. I used roughly 1/8 measure of each of the ingredients; the ones I didn’t actually measure, or of which we had slightly too little, are marked with a “~”: 1 Tbsp each of soy sauce(~), toasted sesame oil, and olive oil; ~1/2 Tbsp (ha! – more than that) chopped celery leaves; ~1/4 clove garlic (used one small/moderate clove) minced; a large sprig of fresh rosemary and another multi-branched one of thyme from the garden, leaves chopped fine (instead of 1/8 tsp dry rosemary and 1/8 tbsp dry thyme); 1/8 tsp dry mustard; 1/16 tsp (“one pinch,” per my measuring spoons) dried oregano b/c I was too lazy to go out and get fresh (and it’s not happy this time of year anyway). Mixed these well, dripped a bit on the bottom of our largest rectangular glass refrigerator container and mooshed three chops in it, spread more marinade on their tops, mooshed three more on top of those, dripped over the rest of the marinade, and then mooshed the edges around in it and all, till they were well coated. The amount was perfect, which is why I related it in detail. I left these in the fridge a couple of hours, then removed to a plastic cutting board 20 or 30 minutes before grilling. I salted both sides well, and grilled about 5 minutes on a side, on medium (per Weber), on our Viking stovetop grill. I moved the chops around the grill top to compensate for its uneven heating.
Kale. I cut a couple dozen leaves, perhaps 3″ – 4″ in diameter, from the volunteer kale plant in the back yard. I believe it’s called “curly kale.” It’s very curly! Took me ages to wash the curvey edges and get off the occasional tiny critters. I cut out the stems and tore the kale into 1″ or 2″ pieces, then re-rinsed.
I cooked these in boiling, salted water only about 3-4 minutes (young leaves) and then drained them. I cooked 1/2 piece of Berkeley Bowl bacon in a bit of olive oil, removed it and added the drained kale to the pan, asked R to chop the bacon into tiny pieces, which he did, and then heated the two together till time to serve.
Two items were on a 3-hour schedule: cannellini beans and bread. The 1 cup of cannellini I checked over, then rinsed a couple of times, put in water to cover and then some, and boiled two minutes; left to soak for 1 1/2 hours. Then I drained the beans and rinsed a couple of times, put in 3 1/2 cups water, 3/4 tsp salt, 5 or 6 cloves of peeled garlic, and a long sprig of rosemary from R’s plant (as with the lamb marinade) that D drove into and broke off the other day. (It sticks into our driveway.) These I brought to a boil , then lowered to a simmer and cooked about 1 1/2 hours, then let sit in their cooking water. This is a recipe from Paul Bertolli, from Chez Panisse Cooking, where it is part of superb meal with grilled tuna and radicchio, and an aioli. We use this bean recipe all the time.
The bread D started yesterday – typical no-knead bread, this time with about 1/3 Central Milling flour, 1/3 King Arthur “blue” bread flour, and 1/3… semolina? Also a goodly pile of Grape Nuts fines. Then 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp yeast, and the right amount of water, usually about 1 5/8 cups. He actually left the bread in a bowl in the oven when heating the oven up to warm the dough and forgot about it, but we noticed before too much damage was done. He moved the dough to a cooler bowl, and by dinner-minus-three-plus-hours today it was ready for its endgame: move to a board, fold over a couple times and round up, coat with flour and leave a cloth over it. I used my rising-plastic wrap (reused!) instead to see if I could get the sun to greenhouse it a bit, then later (after the sun left) moved the bread and board into the large oven after (after!) I warmed the oven a bit. One hour later, start the small oven (450) with dutch oven inside, 30 minutes later, round up the bread and plop it wrinkled side down into the dutch oven (remove from oven briefly to do this), 40 minutes later remove the lid from the dutch oven, 20 minutes later, take out the bread and cool on a rack. Preferably, this is done about 20 minutes before you need to cut it.
This was Christmas in December, which would seem to need no explanation, but “Christmas” per D is “wine of the month club,” and he picks out an excellent bottle for us to share each month. So this is but one of many Christmas dinners of the year. This time, without time to shop or anything b/c of the construction, D pulled from the cellar a bottle of wine he had gotten previously: CalStar Pinot Noir, 2008, from San Giacomo Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Excellent wine, and perfect for this meal!
R made eggnog, which he placed in a Mary Grabill pottery pitcher and served into Russel Wright demitsse cups of three colors. Beautiful!