If you haven't overindulged massively over the past few days you're a much better person than I am... and a much sadder one, most likely. Nothing beats the enjoyment of food in the company of loved ones, be that family (although reports of the biggest rows breaking out over the festive period would indicate otherwise) or friends. While I do value traditions highly and even more so since living abroad, this year it was time to break with them. It did seem a bit silly to be holding on to a traditional Christmas dinner for years when all we could get was second or even third-class ingredients: so the customary dinner of (special Christmas) sausages and sauerkraut went out and in came an array of new dishes that shall from now on constitute our very own culinary tradition on those days.
As for Christmas Day, where I grew up, most families would prepare a whole carp... but believe it or not, nobody really cared for it anyway, in the same way that I haven't anyone here heard declare turkey and brussel sprouts to be their favourite meal ever. "We eat it because it's tradition, not because it's good." Bah humbug! Why eat something you don't like? Life's definitely too short for that!
Here's what we had this year to accompany the traditional Christmas crackers (presents in the shape of giant bonbons that you tear apart to the sound of a firecracker which reveal: a paper crown everybody has to wear throughout the meal, some sort of useless present, funny if you're lucky, and a wise saying or joke or a trivia question):
- Grilled scallops with thyme butter, chilli and parmesan (recipe below)
- Verrines of poached apple, chestnuts & blue cheese cream
- Apple-brined roast pork fillet with apples, bacon-wrapped prunes, potato & jerusalem artichoke gratin and spinach
- Chocolate mousse with stewed cranberries (recipe to follow)
I didn't get to photograph the roast pork and trimmings which was a shame, as it was a glorious main course to our meal - the meat is rendered incredibly moist and tender through brining over the course of 24 hours in apple juice, herbs and garlic. It requires minimal preparation beforehand and goes in the oven for 30 minutes, leaving you enough time to enjoy a pre-starter and starter and get through a bottle of wine or champagne...
The scallops, again, are incredibly easy to make - the thyme & chilli butter is prepared in advance and brushed on just before they go under the grill for a few minutes, sit them on a bed of rocket leaves and sprinkle with crumbled parmesan... If you have a good fishmonger where you live, this is a great dish to make - but don't bother with frozen or canned (is there such a thing?) scallops, as only fresh will do... so if you're still looking for inspiration for your New Year's Eve dinner, maybe I can tempt you with this. Stylish starters don't come any easier than that, and as so often, simplicity is a real beauty!