Although I am now working on the various menus for the last two weeks of December, the kitchen has been a constant buzz and hum since mid-November. We entered the holiday season with soul-comforting dishes for small gatherings; however, I am planning the full razzle-dazzle send off to 2021 that the year deserves, even if our New Year’s Eve get-together will again be slight of size.
My husband has always been pretty cool, now he is a special kind of cool, he’s jazz cool. Over the past 22 years, he has made a few passing comments that if there were an instrument he’d choose to up his cool factor and learn to play, it would be the clarinet. As his 55th birthday approached, I knew the perfect gift to give. On his birthday, I opened champagne, made thin goat cheese omelets, and handed him a shiny, new Yamaha YCL450 solid wood clarinet with nickel-plated keys in B flat. His mother was here and gave him a music stand — and gave me earplugs.
He has started lessons with an instructor focusing on contemporary and jazz music and has been practicing 30 minutes every day, working on his first rousing musical number (no, it is not Hot Cross Buns). I’m happy to report I have not opened the packaging on the earplugs and am proud that he is hitting clear, bossa nova notes. It is only a matter of time until this cool-cat takes the stage with Phat Ankle.
Our Super-Executive Assistant Danielle visited us from her home in Flagstaff the second week of the month. While she was here, we opened our home for holiday cheer to just a few neighbors, friends, and wine club members who passed through our door over the course of a sunny, December afternoon. Danielle and I took a page from David Burtka’s book, “Life is a Party” and glitter-sprayed sparkling wine bottles for a vodka spiked/spiced punch, made eggnog, and a few tasty Yuletide treats. Jeff seasoned the afternoon with a dash here and there of his musical prowess.
“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” – Mame Dennis
Last night Jeff and I built a fire, poured some wine, got settled on our couch, and watched Auntie Mame. This is our holiday tradition and we never tire of this movie. An evermore important reminder to “live” as we finish a second year of masking and distancing. If you haven’t watched it (I’d be shocked), you must see the 1958 original with Rosalind Russell. It is timeless. I love Lucy but the remake Lucille Ball did in 1974 doesn’t cut it. Stick with Rosalind.
Today, the day I am writing this, is December 22. I just did a mobile deposit on my phone and although you’re reading this a day or two later, it’s worth noting the calendar happenstance that makes this day quite quirky and unrepeatable in the near future.. 12/22/21. This day is a palindrome! #BOOM
For me, the holiday season is about hors d’œuves. Salmon rillettes are tasty as hors d’œuvres, spread on griddled brioche or with gougères, maybe with a pickled slice of red onion as a garnish. Rillettes are traditionally made with shredded meat, cooked and preserved in its own fat.
Fish does not have the same available fat so butter makes an entrance. The addition of smoked salmon and Pernod add depth, crème fraïche adds a slight tang, lemon gives brightness and acidity.
Bring these out at the beginning of your soirée and serve with chilled rosé, Chardonnay, or a celebratory sparkling wine. I’ll be serving these at our intimate New Year’s Eve party with caviar, smoked ham, and champagne.