Christmas Gathering with Friends

Christmas gathering with friends. :) But what to make? This year quite awhile in advance – at least for me (so, y’know, like a few hours ahead of time ;)) – I thought about doing something relatively simple that people would probably like – pasta. But I still wanted a “big” main dish – even though pasta is a main dish for me quite often. So I considered braciola. I think I came up with the perfect combination (at least for me :P) – braciola with red sauce, as you do, pesto, and a gorgonzola sauce. How much more Christmas-y can you get – well at least color wise? And garlic’s automatically included, so what more can I ask for?

I had so much fun preparing dinner. Once again, as with the turkey, I noticed a sense of comfort in preparing the braciola. It surprised me how while I thought I was under a bit of a time crunch, I mostly just felt calm and happy and concentrated on getting it done.

Stuffed and browning in the pan :)

Gettin' all nice and browned, time to add the wine!

The sauces. Oh, the sauces. The red sauce, my great-grandma’s spaghetti sauce, turned out as perfect as I could have hoped for. Usually it doesn’t come out just right, but she must have been there with me that night because, boy, did it remind me of eating spaghetti, sprinkled with Kraft grated Parmesan cheese of course, at her kitchen table for lunch. The pesto. Okay, so the pesto recipe that I think I’ve deemed my favorite is the one my dad makes. It’s a Marcella Hazan recipe. It’s a blender pesto, uses extra-virgin olive oil and butter and two cheeses – one of them is Pecornio Romano, which I adore – and I bet you all can guess as to the other cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano. I just love the ingredient list of this pesto. Anyway, no, you don’t put everything into the blender and spin her around. I’ve done this and it produces quite a yummy pesto, but if you follow the recipe exactly – something I’ll admit I don’t do all too often – it comes out even better. No wonder I always think it turns out better when my dad makes it.  The trick is to stir in the cheeses and butter after the rest of the pesto is blended together. I didn’t think it could make that much of a difference, but oh, yes, it does. Trust me here. I’m usually the one thinking shortcuts aren’t noticeable, especially when I’m in a hurry, but this is definitely worth those extra few seconds – and definitely noticeable. The gorgonzola sauce. I was thinking okay, it’s a cream sauce. Flour, butter, milk or cream, the cheese, and seasonings. Half-and-half, cheese, and salt. That’s it. How easy is that. But so super good. The aromas of the individual ingredients and of the final products were totally satisfying and all the three sauces were incredibly moan-worthy.

Spaghetti sauce bubbling away. :)

Pesto! (Yes, it was that exciting.)

The beautiful gorgonzola.

Parmigiano being stirred into the gorgonzola sauce.

And then dinner was ready – complete with salad prepared by Paloma – very awesome salad, mind you. :D Sadly, I have no photos of the salad.

Sliced braciola, ready for nomming. :) Could have been a little pinker though...

And my plate. Please note the fancy silverware – only the best for my friends! It should also be noted that everyone loved the gnocchi – it was rather tasty! Next endeavor: homemade gnocchi. Okay, well, I have made gnocchi before, but it needs to be done again – mostly because I still have a lot to learn about making gnocchi.

Yes, there were all kinds of yummy, sweet Christmas goodies, but the dessert star of the night was coming courtesy a friend. My friend Katrina brought pumpkin cheesecake. I’ve been hearing about this for the past few years and I had gotten rather irate that I had yet to have any, so she offered to make some for our Christmas gathering. Win. And it totally lived up to its hype, too. Uber win. Katrina’s famous pumpkin cheesecake has an open invitation to my house. And I guess Katrina, too. ;)

Super yummy and festive! :)

I also popped chocolate gingerbread in the oven. It’s been yet another Christmas tradition for me over the past few years. It usually gets made Christmas Eve, in the wee Santa Claus hours of Christmas Eve, and every once in awhile on Christmas Day. So far, though, that’s been all for me in the festive week after Christmas. Christmas baking is so personally beneficial.

Not the best photo, but super tasty. :)

Drink wise, we had two lovely bottles of wine brought by two friends, and we decided to mix champagne with cranberry juice.

Again, one of the nice things about cooking now isn’t that maybe some of the food tastes better – I don’t really think it does over all – but the confidence of knowing what you’re doing – just having that knowledge from having done it before. Knowing when to improvise, knowing when to follow a recipe (cough, pesto, cough), knowing when you want to improvise as you have in the past. It was overall a good experience. :)

One thing I learned during the Christmas cooking and baking stretch this year is this – burns, paper cuts, and other minor cuts hurt. Especially when you put pressure on them, accidentally hit them against something, stretch them or move them the wrong way, etc. Even typing isn’t free of mild, very mild, pain. Ah, well. That being said, I think they were probably worth it. :)

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