I have not had a lot of time for bogging lately. But even two weeks into the new year I feel like writing about the joys of December: the food.
Christmas has never been my favorite kind of festivity. I am not one of those fine folk that think that the prophet born that day was our saviour and Christmas was never an exciting party at my parents. It was the obligatory trip to my grandmothers.
Since I met my wife things have improved. Her birthday is the 25th which means we have a reason to celebrate and everybody gets to come to our place. And since the shops are packed with ingredients and advertisements are inspiring to get to the stove and cook I do just that. Cook, for the family.
I have made the mistake of trying to prepare meals that takes 4 to 5 hours to prepare and need to be prepared the same day. This year I decided to relax a bit and choose for the Italian kitchen for inspiration.
For ‘Antipasti’ we decided on a Carpacio. I always thought carpacio was simply served with some parmasan and an olive-oil based dressing but coincidentally my wife got “DeDikkeVanDam” for her birth day. DikkeVanDam is a 736page, 2kg instant classic by a Dutch food critic. Its first edition was sold out within a week. The second edition never made it to the shelves of the stores, it was sold out before printed. The book contains small essays about various kinds of food and food related topics. Occasionally it includes a recipe with a lemma. I immediately looked up Carpacio and was thought that it is to be served with a sauce based on Mayonnaise, cream and Worshester. And so was done.
For these occasions one should make Mayonnaise oneself. Its easy as long as you remember one simple rule: Room temperature. You take two egg jokes, mix them with a little salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Blend these ingredients. Then start adding, drop for drop, very slowly, while whisking, your oil. For this recipe I used part olive and part sunflower oil. I did not want the olive taste to dominate.
The “Primi” was a pasta with pesto. I never knew pesto was so easy to make. A bunch of basil, a cup of olive oil, clove or two of garlic, hand full of pine nuts and a chunk of parmasan cheese, in the blender… done.
Now for the “secundi”. Veil, Parma ham, sage and Marsalla… there you have it: Saltimbocca alla Romana. This is also a very simple and effective dish (much simpler than the Beef Wellington I did a couple of Christmases ago). I am not sure how Italians prepare this meat but I prepared it in clarified butter. In my opinion clarified butter is one of the best fats to prepare your meats in. It has a soft neutral taste, not like margarine, and it can reach fairly high temperatures
without turning bitter
. The proteins that burn at high temperature and that give a bitter taste have been removed. I clarify butter by letting it simmer on a very low fire for about 10 minutes, don’t let it boil. With a small spoon I dispose of the foam that starts floating on top. After the foam has been removed. I slowly poor the fat into a container, carefully leaving the protein/water blob in the original pan. Clarified butter can be kept for 2 weeks. So while you’re at it better clarify 2 or 3 packs. (A pack of butter is 250 gram in this part of the world.)
After Christmas its time for New Year. In the Netherlands the traditional treat are
oliebollen, Dutch donuts as I’ve seen them called. I love them. They should be filled with apple, raisins and current. In my recipe (Haags Kookboek an edition from the 60’s) ‘<>sukade‘ (candied lemon peel) is included. Unfortunately not all consumers of my oliebollen like this ingredient.
white flower, 7.5 dl milk, 50gram fresh yeast, 15 grams of salt, 5 eggs 6 apples, 500 grams of currents and raisins will get you 60 balls. Fry them in a large quantity of oil. The oil should be hot enough for the balls to quickly be done. The trick is to control the temperature. To cold will mean result in greasy balls, to hot will result in dark balls that are not yet done in their interior. Oh by the way, the balls are not supposed to be round. If you want that you should buy them.