Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas Dinner at In-House Cook's! All New Blog Post!

Christmas "Spread" at the In-House Cook's Place

As my family ages, I have taken on Christmas duties at my little apartment. The family congregates at about noon or so, therefore simple snacks must be served and about four in the afternoon, dinner, as the family does not like to drive at night.  My mother likes simple flavors and textures, my aunt is game for almost anything, as are my sister and my son, so I try to find a flavor happy medium.

This was a special Christmas Dinner for me because my youngest son is soon to leave the state for an internship and chances are very good he will live on the other side of the country for years to come, so I wanted to give him a grand dinner for Christmas.  My youngest, although 25, is my "mini-me", we are two-peas-in-a-pod (poor guy), and I will miss him terribly. 

One of the most prominent lessons I have learned in cooking for more than four people is to keep lists. Not just shopping lists, but also a check-off list of things to do, recipe-by-recipe.  Here is mine:

With that, as tears need to dry, let me tell you about my Christmas "spread", as I call it. I started with the frozen food snacks my family likes, such as jalapeno poppers and mozzarella sticks.  No trick to making those; just follow the directions on box.  I also put out the obligatory chips and salsa. This is what they like...not exactly grand or fancy, but traditional. 

In addition, and this is the fun part, I made semi-homemade cinnamon rolls with blood orange and lemon scented cream cheese frosting (to die for) and cakey brownies with Ghirardelli dark chocolate chip frosting.  Chocolate heavenly overload! I made those two on Christmas Eve.  Before I get to those, let's get to the main course:  prime rib bone-in roast. 

I decided to season the bone-in prime rib roast Christmas Eve so that the simple three ingredients could work their flavor magic overnight.  The three ingredients are:  salt, pepper and garlic cloves. 

3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
8 cloves garlic, halved

I added a little extra virgin olive oil to my hands and rubbed the roast down.  I jabbed the fatty top of the roast and inserted (I call it "plugging in") the halved cloves of garlic throughout from front to back. After mixing the salt and pepper together, I generously applied the mixture to all sides, including the bottom. 

I placed the roast in the roasting pan and rack, covered it with foil and put it into the frig overnight. A roast this size would take three hours to finish.  I preheated my oven to 450-degrees, let it get an oven sear on for 18 minutes, then reduced the heat to 350-degrees for the remainder of the three hours. 

Oven Ready!

Now on to the sweet stuff!  I made my semi-homemade version of cinnamon buns.  I used two sheets of pastry dough, put together end-to-end. First, I melted one stick of butter in a metal measuring cup. In a large bowl, I mixed 
2 cups of dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup of ground cinnamon.  I drizzled in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and thoroughly mixed the ingredients together. I brushed the long sheet of pastry dough with butter and generously, end-to-end, spread out the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. I drizzled butter very lightly, very sparingly over the mixture, then rolled it up into a log.  I sprayed a 13 x 9 baking pan with non-stick spray, though I could have buttered the pan. I sliced the rolled up dough into about 1-inch (more like 1 1/4 inch) sections and carefully placed them into the baking pan.  My mistake this time was that I did not roll up the pastry tightly enough.  The result was that too much brown sugar melted onto the bottom of the pan and crystallized. Very tasty, but made for some loose rolls. My cream cheese frosting made up for that mistake!  Meanwhile, I baked the rolls until golden brown on top, about twenty-two minutes at 375-degrees.  

My Blood Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup blood orange juice (fresh squeezed)
1 brick of cream cheese (8 oz)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

I added 1 cup of confectioner's sugar with the wet ingredients and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl and, using my hand mixer set to low, so as not to splatter the room with powdered sugar, which is something I am pretty famous for, I began to slowly mix the remaining sugar; I added more sugar a little at a time until it was fully incorporated. The aroma was ethereal. The flavor, even more so.  You MUST try this!

Once the rolls were finished baking, I let them cool completely before covering. In my race to clean, decorate and cook, you see, I forgot to frost the cinnamon rolls (which smelled insanely delish fresh out of the oven!) and forgot a few things, even though I had made a list (see above). I had to frost them Christmas Day, and, because I was tardy putting out the snacks, I haphazardly slapped the frosting on to the rolls. Awkward as they looked, they were certainly delicious, if I do not say so, myself!

Next, I made fudge. Nothing spectacular or majorly blog-worthy.  It was from a box, but I tell ya, I had a good time making it!  They give you everything you need:  chocolate chips, marshmallows and sweetened condensed milk. All you need to add is butter!   

After combining the butter, sweetened condensed milk in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, I added the chocolate chips and swirled the mixture together until the chips had completely melted and the mixture was smooth and glossy.  I had put down foil into an 8" x 8" pan and sprayed it all with non-stick baking spray and added the fudge batter mixture.  I spread it with a spatula to make it pretty and set it aside, uncovered, to set, about thirty minutes.  Afterward, I placed the fudge into the refrigerator overnight, covered. I cut it into small, one inch cubes to serve. 

As if the fudge was not chocolatey enough, I made a double batch of cakey fudge brownies with melted Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate chips as frosting.  I only have a photo of the finished product prior to the frosting setting.  It was simply from a box. As you know, I am not a baker, and making the cinnamon buns, the fudge and the brownies was quite a feat for me!  

I made a double-batch of cakey fudge brownies in my large stoneware.  I cut the finished product (when the frosting had set) into two inch-by-two-inch squares and, in decorative Christmas solid red and green plastic ware, I added a layer of brownies and a layer of the fudge.  My family did not exchange presents this year, though we really did, but not in a traditional way as in years past, so I gave each person two boxes of the brownies and fudge. 

 After three hours, the meat thermometer finally read 140 degrees (my family wanted that, rather than rarer at 120-degrees), and, after a good nearly thirty minute rest, I sliced the roast. 

The salt crust remained after the fat rendered and basted the roast. It is funny looking but it was quite flavorful!  The garlic made each slice aromatic and quite tasty!

I do not have a photo of the roast plated, but I will add one from New Year's Day.  I also served prime rib (but, NYD's was a boneless rib roast) on New Year's Eve for dinner. 

Now, an hour prior to dinner, I made one of my favorite potato dishes ever, one that is new to me and one that I need to practice a lot more, Pommes Duchesse.  This dish calls for two pounds of peeled, cubed, boiled russet potatoes (just covered with cold, salted water, brought to a boil from there; done when fork tender), a stick of unsweetened butter and a cup of heavy cream. I used a cup of buttermilk rather than heavy cream, however, as I like the flavor of buttermilk better; just how I was raised. To that, I added a cup of garlic Gouda cheese.  It is a long story, but I needed to find a substitute for the Gruyere the original recipe calls for.  I used my hand mixer to thoroughly combine the fork tender potatoes, cheese and creamy, buttery mixture (to which I'd added finely chopped rosemary and sage, mind you), salt and pepper and two egg whites.  The tricky part, which I have not mastered, is using a piping bag to make beautiful swirls of creamy potatoes.  Mine sagged and unswirled, but, they tasted quite amazing. I set them into the frig to set prior to baking at 375-degrees for thirty minutes. 

I'd dusted the Pommes Duchesse with Paprika, which was a last minute choice.  I thought it made them even more pretty, if you could call mine that. When finished, they form a golden brown crust at the bottom and along the scalloped edges to the top. Very beautiful. 


One can only "LOL" at the top picture.  While I did not squish my Duchesse Pommes on Christmas Day, I certainly did New Year's Eve.  Live and Learn and do better next time, is my motto for this year, and to not stress over the small stuff.  I do want to bring to your attention the delectable crust (bottom left) and you can see the now roasted garlic plugged into the top of the roast,lending its flavor well into the meat. This second roast I'd cooked until 130-degrees, leaving the center rare and pink, which is how I like it. I served the Christmas Day Dinner with oven roasted broccoli tossed with evoo, fresh grated garlic and salt and pepper.  Corn for New Year's Eve dinner. The buttery rolls were store bought, but quite delicious, from Nobb Hill stores, by my aunt. 


Christmas is over, now New Year's is over....what to do with those leftovers?  While my family took home just about every bit of leftovers there were at Christmas, I had a good amount of Pommes Duchesse remaining at New Year's (because I fed two, rather than 5), and decided to use them for New Year's Day Brunch. I remixed the pommes with a bit more cheese, two beaten eggs, finely chopped scallions and made croquettes.  

I added four tablespoons of vegetable oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. I rubbed my hands with some oil so I could easily handle the potatoes and not have much stuck to my hands. I scooped about two tablespoons of the potato mixture into the palm of my hand and covered them with salt and pepper seasoned panko breadcrumbs and added the croquettes to the skillet. I turned them over after six minutes.  Nice and golden brown, oozing a little cheesy goodness, the garlic Gouda cheese aroma filled my kitchen. I removed the croquettes when finished and let them set a few minutes prior to plating. I also sauteed up some bacon seasoned with oregano (I am obsessed with oregano) and fried some eggs over-easy, gently crusted with grated parmesan cheese.  Delightful brunch!  

Thank You so much, gentle readers and viewers, for your time and consideration and patience with this rambling post.  I hope you will make a prime rib or rib roast at some point (they are not just for the holidays, you know!) for your loved ones and friends, and perhaps think of creative ways to use leftover potatoes.  Breakfast is one of those meals that is delicious at ANY time of day, which is why I call them BLDs, Breakfast for Lunch or Dinner (or Breakfast!).  

Thank You, again, for your loyal readership.  I am profoundly grateful for you ALL!
Happy New Year's 2017!!!

Below are some extra photos of New Year's Eve dinner. 

My rib roast oven ready! NYE

Side view of my NYE rib roast, oven ready. 

Finished rib roast, resting. 

May your 2017 be full of grace, wonder, love and good food!  Now, go cook for someone you love!