December 23, 2009

A Pre-Christmas Dinner

I've been in Japan for a few years now, and I've really enjoyed Osechi Ryouri (the food Japanese people eat at the New Year) but this year, I really wanted to have a traditional American Christmas Dinner.

In our family we usually had Turkey and ham at Christmas. We also usually had corn, peas, sweet beets, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and ambrosia fruit salad. I'm not sure why, but my family really loves ambrosia fruit salad. It is basically fruit coctail with marshmallows and miracle whip and way too much sugar.

That sounds like a pretty intimidating menu for me, since I'm not much of a cook. I usually make pasta, curry, tuna sandwiches, salad, stuff like that. I have made turkey before, but that is about it. So I pared the menu down a bit and decided on this:

  • Turkey. But I'll cheat: R.'s grandma wants to make turkey for Christmas, so if I buy her one, she'll make the stuffing for mine too. Great!
  • Gravy. Because, you know. Gravy.
  • Honey glazed ham. Doesn't look like it is too tough, and I love honey and ham and sweet stuff and pineapples. I don't see how I can screw this up.
  • Mashed potatoes. You can make those frozen ones easily and they taste great. Also, R. went to IKEA recently and brought back a bag of frozen mashed potatoes. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Corn. I love corn. And it is also easy to make if you have a bag of frozen corn. Which I do. Because I bought it. For tonight.
  • Cookies. I even made a bunch in advance. Chocolate chip (the best), sugar, and gingerbread men.
  • Ambrosia Fruit Salad. Like I said, it is an "our family" kind of food. I did make it a bit less sweet though.
  • Peach and Blueberry pie. Because it looks like it will be delicious and probably I won't mess it up. Because I bought a pre-made graham cracker crust, and frozen peaches and frozen blueberries. And I've got sugar and flour, and really, what else could you need? (Cinammon, and some other spices which I had already for the cookies. nice.)

So I actually started working on the cookies a few days earlier. They turned out amazingly great, if a bit flat. I need to work on that. I love the chocolate chip cookies, but wish they were a bit thicker. I think I can fix that though. Somehow. More flower, or more sutff to leaven the flour. Or who care. They are great! Just jam two of those things together.

In the morning I started on the pie. Why the pie? Figured I could re-heat it when we needed it and keep it in the fridge after it was done. Yep. It was easy enough: drain the fruits, add flour and sugar, mix them all together, throw into the pie crust (pre-made, I know, I am so lazy) and then throw them into the oven. It turned out great looking. (And later: it was great! But probably not really a real pie. But tasty.)

After the pie I started in on the turkey. Add some water, baste in brandy (Suntory style.) Every 15 minutes. And made sure the water doesn't disappear. Not so bad. Two and a half hours of that. But, on the plus side, it turned out great. Also, after the turkey was done, R. made some gravy from the neck and giblets.

After that I started in on the whipped cream for the ambrosia fruit salad. I wasn't able to find any miracle whip in any of the import specialty stores in Tokyo, so I just bought the 48% cream whatever it was. And a whisk. Then took one bowl, filled it with ice, and put a slightly smaller bowl in it. Then I started to whip. Whip it good. And man, that took a while. Like 10 minutes of whipping. Eventually thought the cream thickened up, and it looked good enough that I added some sugar and vanilla. (Side note: holy crap no wonder Americans are fat! I can't believe how much sugar and butter I used in all the cooking I did.) After whipping you just add the marshmallows, drained fruit, and well that is it. Refridgerate. Server later. But not too much later because you know, this is real cream here. (There is no way we will eat all this fruit salad before it turns into some sort of inedible something or other.)

After that was done and while the turkey was still cooking, I started on the glaze for the ham. Basically honey and butter with a bit of molasses (since I had some left over from the gingerbread man cookies and it seemed close enough to the dark corn syrup the recipe called for) heated in a double broiler. I didn't have one of those, so I went with the poor man's double broiler: one pot with water, one pot that is a bit smaller in that pot. Worked well. Enough. Man that sauce was strong. After baking the ham though, you really didn't get too much of the flavor, only a bit, and it was about right.

The mashed potatoes worked out well, and the corn too. Those are pretty easy.

Once the turkey was out, R. came home (oh yeah, I also vaccuumed and cleaned around the place) and started in on the gravy. I popped the ham into the oven and we let that go.

Just about 3 minutes before that was ready, my friends called from the station and were lost, so I went and picked them up. And we had a great dinner. Our friends brought some wine (we went through a bottle of Champagne, and the red and white that our friends brought) which we polished off, and then had dinner. The pie reheated really well, and the cookies went over better than I expected. The ambrosia was, as expected, too sweet. And it was a lot less sweet than what we usually have.

So the food went over well. Cleanup was a bit tougher. R. was passed out on the sofa, but that happens after drinking with a not unsurprising frequency so I didn't worry about that too much. Thankfully we sprung for the dishwasher (which are not very popular here or some reason) and after two loads pretty much I got through all the stuff. But our fridge is stuffed. And I am totally looking foward to the leftovers.

I am really impressed that we pulled this off. We've had two other dinner parties (curry and nabe) but this was by far the most planned. And the one that I had to do the most work for. And I really enjoyed it. Guess this post just comes off as a bit "what I had for dinner plus lots of bragging" and well, that is what it is. But it was good dinner, and I was able to eat better than I expected.





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Re: A Pre-Christmas Dinner
Way to go, Dave! Those turkeys feel WAY to safe in Japan. Gotta show them they are never safe from American chefs! Sounds like you are no stranger to the kitchen, too!

Shawn
Posted 12 years, 5 months ago by Shawn Purcell • @ • • Reply

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