Just When You Think It’s All Over … Christmas 101 by Rick Rodgers

With fat/shrove/Pancake Tuesday, Valentine’s Day and a few February birthdays looming, you might think that reviewing 101 Christmas recipes is the equivalent of committing writing suicide. When I opened the envelope and got a glimpse of jolly gingerbread men and sugar-decorated stars, my first thought was “What on @@@@”"”???!!! am I going to do with this?”
OK, stay calm, start with 101 (that is less scary than the other word in the title): Hassle-free fun, entertaining mysteries explained to the layman, if you look at it that way, it is not so bad.
So I opened the book and I was hooked. This is all what a cookbook should be. No wonder that the author was awarded the American food and entertainment award. Rick Rodgers is a outstanding cooking teacher. Christmas 101 communicates with passion. One gets a pinch of insight into the author’s life and a dollop of historical info. For example, Why will you usually find a big roast on a Christmas dinner table? (answer at the end of my post). Each recipe has its personal intro, there are timetables, menu planners, lists (I love lists) and to come back to “101,” great tipsheets not only for Xmas but for several different holiday parties.
I am not suggesting that you serve a whole Turkey with Cornbread Succotash Stuffing napped with Bourbon Gravy to your special loved one on Valentine’s Day, but Marinated Shrimps with White Wine Beurre Blanc should do the trick nicely (despite its title, it is so well explained that nothing can’t go wrong). In the meantime, I’ll leave you with Leek, Pancetta & Chevre tartlets which, in my case, dropped their “let” to turn into tarte as I don’t have any small moulds. I was astound to read that the dough contained cream-cheese, but it works a treat and can simply be pressed instead of rolling.

Leek, Pancetta & Chèvre Tartlets

Makes 24 tarlets

Dough 1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 ounces chilled cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 3 large)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped (Pancetta [bacon cured in salt] is available at hypermarkets or Italian markets)
2/3 cup half and half
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Fresh parsley leaves
Blend flour and salt in processor 5 seconds.
Add butter and cream cheese. Using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form.
Gather dough; shape into 6-inch-long log. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Cut log into 24 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
Press 1 round into each cup of 2 nonstick 12-cup mini muffin pans; freeze 30 minutes.
Make the filling:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté 10 minutes; cool.
Heat oil in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.
Whisk half and half and next 3 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Mix in goat cheese, then leeks and pancetta.
Spoon filling into shells. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F, Bake until filling is set and crust edges are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill in pans. Rewarm uncovered in 350°F oven 12 minutes.)
Using small knife, cut around tartlets to loosen. Turn out tartlets and arrange on platter; garnish with parsley leaf and serve warm or at room temperature.
……. The reason why we get roasts at Xmas is because up to one hundred years ago, the main butchering took place in the winter when it was cold and meat could be refrigerated naturally. In Roman times the “Birthday of the Invincible Sun God” Mithras took place on the 25th December: big feast day. When Christianity established itself ,Mithras’ birthday was ursuped but the old pagan traditions die hard and serving big roasts on the most important winter holiday never went away.
book cover picture from amazon.


Chef JP said...

I thought the tartlet recipe was excellent-- great job!

solange said...

I am glad you like it. Thank you for the nice cosmic mention.



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