A Holiday Tradition

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Just the other day at work, I was chatting with a newly single male co-worker who had recently (and reluctantly) joined a dating website. Since his divorce he hadn’t dated much, and hated the fact that online dating was the new way to meet fellow singles.

“Why can’t I just meet someone the old-fashioned way, like at the grocery store or something?”, he lamented.

I smiled and agreed, telling him he shouldn’t give up on that notion. That someday he’ll have his meet-cute.

“What’s a meet-cute?” he asked.

“A meet-cute is a way in which two characters in a story are introduced,” I explained.

“Are you talking about The Holiday?” immediately chimed another male co-worker.

I was shocked that this co-worker knew what I was talking about; it made me smile and giggle.

“My wife watches that movie a lot,” he huffed. “So that means, I’ve watched it… a lot.”

For the past 7 years, I’ve had this unofficial tradition of watching The Holiday around Christmastime. If you haven’t already seen it, the film is actually a great story with a stellar cast playing relatable, sympathetic characters. (Eli Wallach’s Arthur Abbott steals every scene he’s in. And you can’t help but sympathize with Kate Winslet’s character Iris Simpkins, who deals with the heartbreak that comes with loving a man who will never love you back.) The characters’ interwoven story lines, teamed with the sentimentality of the holiday season, are a joy to watch every year. But what’s also really great are the scenes where food is the common thread for comfort and togetherness during the holidays. Because of that, I was inspired to create a menu dedicated to the movie.

For the full recipes, click on the following links below.

MENU

Amanda Woods’ Christmas Eve Toast with Proscuitto, Burrata, Hazelnuts, Balsamic Reduction

Christmas Chicken Fettuccine with Grana Padano and Fines Herbes

Adult Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps and Whipped Cream

Arthur Abbott’s Hanukkah Chocolate-Covered Hazelnut Macaroons

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

[Adult Swig]

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Adult Hot Chocolate
Serves 1

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups milk
8 ounces dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon sugar
sprinkle of salt, to taste
1 tablespoon Peppermint Schnapps
1/2 cup whipping cream

METHOD
Using a stand mixer, whisk on medium-high the whipping cream till hard peaks, about 8-10 minutes.

In a small deep sauce pan, heat the milk. Stir often to avoid scorching. Add in the chocolate chips, sugar and salt. Heat till chocolate is melted. Turn off the heat. Transfer the hot chocolate into a large mug. Stir in the peppermint schnapps. Finish with 2 big dollops of whipped cream.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

Festive Fettuccine

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Christmas Chicken Fettuccine
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
For the pasta
10 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta

For the roux
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour

For the Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
roux
2-3 cups milk
1/2 pound grana padano, (6 ounces grated and 2 ounces shaved for garnish)
salt, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 pound chicken breast, cut into medium-sized chunks

For the fines herbes
1/2 teaspoon tarragon, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chives, finely chopped

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METHOD
In a deep sauce pan, fill with water and heat till boiling. While waiting for the water to boil, in a sauté pan, melt the butter on medium then add the flour. When it starts to bubble, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula mix till completely cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in a plate, set aside.

In the same pan, add the oil and sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the milk and heat. Once hot, return the roux to the pan and stir till thickened, about 6-10 minutes.

Add the grated cheese and thicken into the sauce. Stir in half of the fines herbes, add salt and chili flake, season to taste. Set aside.

Once the water starts to boil, add the pasta. Stir and cook till al dente, about 3-6 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, heat a deep sauté pan with oil and add the chicken. Cook till all sides are browned. Add the sauce to the pan and stir. Stir in the fettuccine and coat with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add in a few spoonfuls of the pasta water. When the chicken is fully cooked, turn off the heat. Using a pair of tongs, plate the pasta into a wide-brimmed bowl. Garnish with the rest of the fines herbes and grated grana.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

Amanda’s Holiday Toast

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Amanda’s Christmas Eve Toast
Serves 1

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
1 thick slice artisanal baguette
coarse sea salt, to taste
1 piece burrata, room temperature
2 slices proscuitto
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed and chopped

METHOD
Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pot over high until boiling. Lower to medium-low and simmer slowly till a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush bread with olive oil on both sides of bread. Place bread onto a sheet pan and into the oven for 3 minutes. Pull the bread out and flip onto the other side. Return to the oven for 3 more minutes or until medium golden brown. Slice the bread on a diagonal in half, then cut burrata in half and place on top of still-hot bread, sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt. Lay proscuitto slices over the bread and cheese. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the bread and sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Finish with the olive oil.

Serve with a glass of red wine.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

The Dough Jones

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Portland’s Doughnut stock is up up up! PDX should really stand for “Portland Doughnut eXchange” ‘cause when it comes to doughnuts, they’ve got plenty to choose from. For this week’s post, I went on an unofficial Doughnut Diet, and devoured way too many to count. Here’s how each donuttery’s stock stacks against the rest. (And just in case you’re wondering, that was 4-6 doughnuts a day within a 5-day period.) Oh my.

unnamed-4Blue Star
Stock up on:
+Meyer Lemon + Key Lime Curd
A whole brioche-style doughnut, filled with a smooth tangy key lime curd and dusted with powdered sugar. (It gets messy, so make sure you’ve got napkins handy.)
+Blueberry Bourbon Basil
A soft, fluffy, brioche-style doughnut with a purple-hued glaze and a hint of basil extract in the dough.
Why? Two words: Brioche, baby. Soft, buttery and sweet. Blue Star truly has some tasty combinations– Crème brûlée? Dulce de leche? Vahlrona Chocolate Crunch?

unnamed-6Voodoo
Stock up on:
+See my Portland Guide post HERE where I first publicly account my love for these devilish beings.
+Lemon Chiffon Crueler
The softest bites you’ll ever have. Like chewing into a pillow of lemon-y air. And those marshmallows, tho!
+Old Dirty Bastard
Chocolate frosting, Oreo cookie bites, and peanut butter. ‘Nuff said.
Why? Voodoo has done for doughnuts what Candace Nelson (of Sprinkles fame) did for cupcakes and what Roy Choi did with Korean barbecue-style tacos—niche branding. Brilliant.

unnamed-1Pip’s Original Doughnuts
Stock up on:
+Nutella + Sea Salt
+Candied Maple + Bacon
Why? Super fresh and crispy (they’re fried to order) cake bite-sized doughnuts. Like elevated Donettes, but better. Like WAYYYY better. Plus, they’ve got the BEST house-made chai lattes.

unnamed-2Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream
Stock up on:
+Blueberry Old-Fashioned
I’m going to be bold and say that this was hands down the best old-fashioned I’ve ever had. With those little blueberry bits mixed into the dough–I wish I ordered more.
+Bavarian Cream
Yeast-raised whole doughnut with chocolate glaze and a smooth creamy filling.
Why? HUGE selection of varieties and flavors to choose from. Still fully stocked well after 3 p.m.

unnamed-3Coco Donuts
Stock up on:
+Lavender
Cake-style doughnut with a refreshing lavender- flavored glaze
+Glazed yeast-raised
A perfectly executed take on a classic.
Why? They’ve got the classics down pat, and then some.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner…

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It’s National Cookie Day, and to celebrate this grand occasion (I think it’s worth a day off from work and school, whattya think?) I wanted to share a recipe much similar to the one my half-Italian grandmother made during Christmas. If you love the taste of anise (licorice) then you’ll certainly love these.

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Pictured above with my Aunt Sandy, my Grandma Irma always had her coffee table adorned with platters of various cookies and fudge she made during the holidays. Us kids would run to that table before having Christmas dinner and nosh on the sweet treats despite our parents’ scolding. But she didn’t mind. She loved it that we loved them so much. She, too, was a cookie monster, and devoured them with us when the parents weren’t looking. I’m pretty sure I got my sweet tooth and love of baking from her.

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Italian Anisette Cookies
Recipe adapted from Vittles and Bits
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

FOR THE COOKIES
INGREDIENTS
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoon pure anise extract

FOR THE ICING
INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
4-5 T. milk (first try 4, then add a little at a time if necessary)
1/2 t. anise extract
1/2 cup nonpareils aka “Jimmy” sprinkles

METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In large-sized bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and eggs on medium-low speed until combined. Lower the speed and gradually add in the flour mixture, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase the speed to medium-low, and whip till a dough forms. It may be a little dry. That’s OK.

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Using a small ice cream or cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop the balls of dough and roll them into uniform-sized balls.

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Place the dough onto a prepared baking sheet, and bake for about 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven’s convection) till puffed and lightly golden.  Allow the cookies to cool for one minute before transferring to a wire rack.

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Once the cookies have completely cooled, sift your powdered sugar through a sifter till all clumps are gone. This way, the icing doesn’t come out chunky. Whisk in the milk and anise until smooth. Check for consistency, it should be somewhat runny.

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Now dip the tops of the cookies into icing, and then finish with Jimmy sprinkles.  Allow for the icing to set completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container.