27 December 2010

Christmas Eve

When I grew up Christmas Eve was the best day of the year. We would first go to church and after that it was time to open the presents. Now that we all have our own house we don’t get together till the 25th.

I only had to work till on Christmas Eve so I had a little bit time for some last minute shopping. When I came home my neighbor, Georgia was waiting for me and asked me to come over so she can give me a little something. Since we had a little present for Spyros I brought that with me also. Her dad just came over from Greece and brought some traditional Greek treats and her mom even baked some as well.
The dark brown cookies covered with nuts were home made. The rest were store bought.

Then our Portuguese neighbors brought us something typical Portuguese. 

I forgot to ask what it was but it looked like some kind of noodles baked in custard with lots of cinnamon. It took me a while to see, but the 2 pieces on top were something like in milk soaked French bread baked with cinnamon. It smelled really good.

Since they all brought me something, I had to make something also. I bought some smoked mackerel which I turned into an appetizer.


Once you cleaned the mackerel you can make this appetizer in a couple of minutes.
I bought 3 mackerel at a fish stand so there was plenty to give out. I think “fresh” smoked mackerel is much better then the pre-packed you can buy in the supermarket.
First I took the head and all the skin off.

Then I tried to get all the bones out. Of course the big bone in the middle of the fish is the easiest, as well as the bones in the belly area. The rest of the bones were kinda small and hard to find. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty you can also buy the mackerel filets.

I sliced some onion, chopped some garlic and sautéed it in olive oil until they brown and then added the mackerel filet.

I stir-fried everything together and added some fresh grounded pepper and some Maggi. The mackerel is quite fatty so you don’t need to add any extra oil. I tried to removed some more bones. Can’t get them all, but can sure try.
I served it warm with some plain crackers.

After making this appetizer it was time for the main course. We had duck breast with sauerkraut mash potatoes and caramelized fennel. I also invited my sister for dinner and since she doesn’t like duck I made something else for her. I went to the supermarket and bought some pre-packed pork roast and some sweet potato. During the holidays supermarkets have what I call “the lazy” meal packages that you only have to heat up or put in the oven. It contains the more luxurious meats or fish and there are all kinds of different side dishes and desserts. And it actually tastes pretty decent, so if you want a relaxed Christmas, this is the way to go.

The sweet potato came with pecan nuts and plump raisons. It was surpose to be seasoned with sweet chili, but it tasted more like they used Moroccan spices.
This was the easiest meal every, put together in no time. 

Now let me show you how I made our Christmas Eve meal.

First I boiled some potatoes with some bouillon and two cloves of garlic.
These fennel bulbs were firm, shinny and very fresh. I chopped the stems off and popped them in the freezer so I can use them for soup or stew later.
I sliced it in even parts.
I put some olive oil and butter in the pan and stir-fried the fennel. When they started to soften I added some salt, pepper and sugar. The sugar will burn a little and give the fennel color and flavor. When everything is cooked I added some of the fennel leaves to give it some more color.
I scored the duck skin and marinated it for a day with salt, pepper and garlic powder. This time I forgot to put a little bit of Chinese five spices powder. I baked it in a medium hot pan without any oil on the skin side first. The skin will release a lot of fat. Once the skin is brown and crunchy I flipped it on the meat side and baked it in its own fat. Duck tastes best when it is still a little pink on the inside. About 15-20 minute on low/medium heat should do it. Make sure you let it rest of a couple of minutes before you cut it.  

While the duck was backing I added the sauerkraut, which I soaked and rinsed with water, to the potato and let it boil for about 5 minutes. Then I mashed everything together. Since I used the bouillon I didn’t need to add any other seasoning. 

And now it is time to plate up.
This plate of goodies took me about 30-45 minutes to make.

I also had time to whisk up a dessert, thanks to my co-worker's recipe. Since it was an experiment, I didn’t take any picture of how I made it. I wanted to see how it turned out first, but since it was so good I will share it. You can't believe how easy it was.


All you need is 4 main ingredients:
- 3 table spoons of sherry
- about 400 ml whipping cream
- 1 very juicy lemon
- 2 table spoons of sugar

To make it looks nice:
- frozen summer fruit
- bitterkoekjes (Dutch macaroons, made of bitter almonds, sugar and egg whites)

First you mix the lemon juice with the sugar. For a nice fresh dessert you need it to be a little bit more sour then sweet. If 2 table spoons of sugar is not enough then add a little bit more. In the same bowl you’ll add the sherry and the whipping cream. Mix till it is firm, but still liquid. Don’t over whip it. It will firm up quickly so make sure you pour it out fast.

To make everything look nice, I put some frozen summer fruit, over which I poured some more cherry and some crumbled “bitterkoekjes” at the bottom of a glass. On top of that I poured the lemon whip cream mixture. It has to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up.
I have to admit, I used quite big glasses and it was a little bit too much. Next time I will put it in smaller glasses or bowls.

It was a very good ending of a very good meal. And the best of all, it was very very easy to make. It will even taste good the next day, if it lasts that long.

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