Tuesday, December 28, 2010

...and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

It's funny how entwined food is in my family's holiday traditions. Sometimes, I think it's all my fault.

We aren't Thanksgiving people. We aren't even Christmas people. We're remarkably a-religious - whatever it is we're celebrating when we get together around my ma's big, wooden dining table, it's totally secular. Maybe that's why Fondue Christmas Eve is such a big deal. And it's definitely why I take cooking on Christmas Day so seriously. Like, unwrap the prezzies, have a nibble, and get to work seriously. Part of it is that I have some reluctantly vegetarian relatives, and converting them, even for one night, is a challenge.

This year was made awesomer by Sous Chef Erk playing such a big role. First meal we've conquered together, start to finish. I love that guy.

So, some hot pics:

My ma set up a table in the "studio" complete with multiple light sources and cute, formerly-Guatemalan-wall-hanging placemats for a quick shot before we dug in. Awesomemom.

Yeah, we partied like it was 1974. This was fo sho' an anti-minimalist spread - 7 separately prepared items on one plate, swimming in Bourbon-Fennel Ragu. Tasty, but intense. Counter-clockwise: Lemon-Thyme Roasted Fingerlings, Garlic Braised Baby Bok Choy and Pea Shoots, Pickled Green Tomatoes, Bourbon Ragu, Smoked Cheese Grits, Whipped Honey-Butter. We did some biscuits, too, to go with the extra butter.

The base was kind of a combination of these two meals - savory, cheesy, buttery grits topped by a thin, brothy sauce with a lot of oomph. Those were two of my favorite meals from this year, so I wanted to show it off to the fam. And anything is improved by spooning it over a pillow of hot grits. Of course, in the grit cake recipe, you chill the grits so that you can shape them - but they're just as amazing fresh out of the pot.

And then there was the Maple-Pecan Crusted Tempeh on top.

1 cake tempeh (enough to feed 2)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp mushroom stock concentrate or 2 tsp soy sauce
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Dash smoked salt (or regular)
1 clove garlic, crushed, then minced
2 tablespoons crushed Pecans

Toast your pecans in a dry skillet for 2 minutes, tossing, until nicely browned and fragrant. Set aside.

Mix syrup, stock or soy sauce, salt, garlic, and pepper in a measuring cup.

Boil water in a large, wide stock pot. Set a colander over the pot and place your tempeh, sliced to fit, if necessary, in the colander. Cover with a lid and towel and steam for 10 minutes, flipping once.

Melt butter in a iron skillet and press tempeh into butter. Sear for 2 minutes on each side over medium-high heat. Add your syrup mixture and cook 1-1.5 minutes, then flip the cake, coating the other side with the syrup as well, and continue to cook, flipping, until both sides have a nicely browned crust.

Press your pecans onto the seared tempeh, using enough pressure to get them to adhere. Slice and serve.

 The leathery, deeply smokey ragu complimented the maple and pecan flavors nicely, methinks. Give it a whirl, and let me know how it goes!

ALSO! If you'd like to brag about the delicious nosh you and yours ete over the Holidays, you know I'd love to hear all about it.


  1. that looks fabulous.
    can i come over next year?

  2. As long as you'll go a round with my Ma at Scrabble, you're welcome any time!