Sunday, December 31

Thoughts On Special Holiday Fare, Plus, A Homemade Pate Recipe Share

Traditions, Food & Love:
These Favorite Holiday Dishes Bring Us Together.
by Susan Young
As we busied ourselves with merriment during this holiday season, I am reminded that it is often the food that connects us. Holiday cuisine can make us feel good, and I like to relish in the familiar flavors that take me back to my childhood. Whether we are celebrating the Italian-catholic feast of the seven fishes, or grading potatoes in preparation for potato latkes, these special foods we prepare in our family are just as much a part of the celebration as the many other traditions. We have several dishes that we only make once a year, and anticipating that food evokes many sentimental feelings which elevates the entire holiday experience. My family is interfaith and we celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah which means the first night of this Jewish celebration is the only time (regardless of how amazingly delicious they are) that I prepare potato latkes. I could make them at other times, but I do not because they remain special this way.
Beef Wellington photo via The Food Network
This year, I had the pleasure and fortune to dine at several friend's home and share in their traditions, and it was an extra-social holiday season for us as we darted out to holiday parties almost every weekend, and sometimes with festive girl's night outs sandwiched in between during the week. No rest for the weary, but it was great fun. The food this year was the best I can remember starting out a dinner in early December at our friend's home. She prepared a traditional beef wellington slathered with homemade chicken liver pate then delicately wrapped in wafer thin crepe and encased in a flakey, buttery dough. I almost fell over when our host humbly mentioned that she made the pate from scratch! The meal  commenced with a savory Caesar salad, the dressing made the traditional way. This was only the beginning of delicious holiday meals...
my once a year, homemade potato latkes
Next, we celebrated Chanukah, and although it was a tiring work day that week, and I was not necessarily in the mood to grate potatoes and stand in front of hot splattering oil for forty five minutes, it is a cherished annual dish in our home, so I put on my "big girl" pants to please my family. Soon enough, we were all feeling warm and fuzzy as the smell permeated the house from the sizzling potatoes, carrots and onions. 
the delicate, traditional French Buche Noel 
is my favorite dessert during the holidays
Another dinner ensued that weekend with another friend hosting an elaborate dinner party with a rich menu of prime rib, blue cheese au gratin potatoes and brussel sprouts. Although the menu was mouthwatering, what really blew us away was the dessert-- buche noel! The cake was like a moist cocoa sponge, the chestnut mousse filling both light and rich, and the chocolate buttercream frosting blended perfectly with the rest of the log. It was the best I have ever tasted!

Fast forward to the next weekend where we found ourselves celebrating with our cousins in their modern, three story townhouse in the West Village. This cocktail fete was catered but still retained a home-done feeling. The appetizers were unfettered and delicious...

Cut to the weekend before Christmas which brought us to yet another party with a gorgeous display of food, reminiscent of royal tablescapes of days gone by- there was a glistening roasted turkey and a buche noel just for display, while their dopplegangers were secretly being carved in the kitchen.
a Caeser Salad with homemade dressing, a holiday treat indeed
We capped off the pre-Christmas season with a Christmas Eve dinner, attended by my big, rambling old friends. We have all known each other since our children were toddlers, and it was glorious to see them altogether ranging in ages from 15 to 22 as they posed for a group picture.  The meal was a glorified pot-luck of sorts, with everyone bringing their own specialty dish from Gruyere mac and cheese to tuna tartare to poached salmon with shaved cucumbers and a gorgeous vegan antipasto with honey glazed beets.

The festivities culminate with me hosting my annual New Years Eve Dinner (fifteen years and counting). The rule is all my guests bring an appetizer, and I provide the main course. It's the same meal every year, and, again, I only cook this particular dinner once a year (gotta love these traditions) so it remains special and my guests share the same "je ne sais quoi" food feeling as they head over to our home.
Pate photo via Evan Sung, NY Times
There are so many recipes I could give, and I'll be back in 2018 to share more of these I mentioned above, but for today, if you are feeling ambition I encourage you to try this homemade Chicken Liver Pate recipe our gracious host found over at the NY Times and tweaked ever so slightly.
Happy Holidays to all and here’s to a prosperous, peaceful and fulfilling New Year!
Happy Nesting
XO Susan