food and wine

This has been an incredibly difficult year for so, so many. And as the holidays approach, families are pained again, being forced to make tough decisions on whether or not to get together. In order to try and bring the coronavirus numbers down, we are being urged to gather with only our immediate families. So how do we keep the season alive and experience the joy of the holidays with family, while keeping our loved ones safe?

Zoom and FaceTime have definitely allowed us to connect over the past few months. My husband and I have had some pretty fun Zoom cocktails with friends, while playing our new favorite game “quarantune”. I also planned a birthday gathering for my daughter, a “Nailed It” bake off, with one of her besties. We have found when you actually have a planned out experience it works and pretty much feels like you’re together with your most favorite people. That is how the idea of cooking Christmas Dinner  “together” came to be.

After hours of research, I believe I have identified a way to pull off a flawless and elegant holiday meal experience, one in which everyone can be involved. To execute this idea, I have found a way for all parties to shop seamlessly, no matter where they are physically. And you can too.

The first step, pick the entree. We are opting for a more specialty meat product, pasture raised, keeping things green and cruelty free. Having had meat delivered from Porter Road in the past, it seemed a good place to start. All their meats graze in the open, 24/7. There are a plethora of farms out there claiming to offer humanely raised animal products. However, beware! Many vary in how they classify being humane. Marketing jargon used on packaging often seems to conjure cruelty free conditions. This often isn’t the case.

Upon entering the Porter Road site, I was surprised and delighted to find that many of their items were sold out. A sign that both the pasture raised movement is gaining momentum and the pandemic has been good for their business. They do have some items left if you think chicken or osso buco might peak your interest. Being I wasn’t going in that direction, I asked if they were aware of any other farms offering pasture raised. They were happy to suggest White Oak Pastures. Funnily enough, they had been on my radar awhile back. Yes, there are good people in the world, not filled with greed. I was happy to find, they had plenty in stock, particularly the exact type of meat and cut I was looking for.

Porter Road and White Oak Pastures both ship domestically. Once you have selected your star of the show, create a menu accordingly. More on our precise selection to come.

Alternatively, some may prefer to select fish or go vegetarian or vegan for the main course. Fish is even more tricky than meat when it comes to humanely raised, so do your homework.

For the more basic items to create a most spectacular dinner, Instacart delivery service is proving to be the easiest way to purchase any additional ingredients needed. Being able to order all necessary items ahead of time and have them delivered, during one of the busiest times of year, will offer a less stressful and safer shopping experience. Instacart is available in all 50 states as well as Canada for those who have family north of the boarder. They also offer same day deliveries in the case you suddenly realize you left out an essential ingredient.

Lastly, no festivity is complete without a little vino!  So I figured, why not formalize things and do a wine pairing? A most extraordinary way to elevate an engagement, by offering an added layer of enjoyment and conversation. I immediately recalled a California Vineyard, I discovered earlier this year and fell in love with, Villa Creek. They produce organic and biodynamic wines that are truly special. Ordering directly from the same winery will assure everyone is able to source the exact same pairings.

Here is the 3 course meal I have decided on for our family, taking everyone’s preferences into consideration. I’m anticipating it will be absolutely delightful and a cinch to prepare:

First course- Baked brie with honey and toasted walnuts served with baguette or brioche toast points. You could also do this with chèvre. Wine pairing “2018 MAHA Before Anyone Else, a Clairette Blanche with notes of toasted hazelnuts, marzipan and candied lemon rind.”

This will be an easy prep appetizer that we can enjoy, saving our efforts for the main event. Plus, this wine is so spectacular you wouldn’t want to spoil it with something too complex. Here is the perfect moment to raise a glass and say a few words of gratitude.

I considered following our first course with a salad. However, in an effort to keep a good flow, I think it will make more sense to keep the group together in the kitchen until the main meal is complete. This will avoid having to move between rooms, carrying a laptop or ipad back and forth.

Second course- Pork Chops with Cherry-Miso Mostarda, haricot vert sautéed with shallots in butter and brown buttered mashed potatoes.  Wine pairing “2017 MAHA Understory an herbaceous, textural Grenache with notes of cherry confiture, nori and Tellicherry peppercorn which equals “citrus and spice.”

This simple yet elegant, pork dish is absolutely delicious. It will allow for an easy cooking experience, where all can engage without having to be laser focused. Delegating tasks to individuals will keep everyone participating, even the kids! Depending on the age of the children, they can wash veg or chop etc. Trust me, conversations and laughter will ensue. In the past I have used frozen cherries in lieu of dried when cooking this recipe.

Once the meal is complete, as we sit down to dine, I can imagine the sound of that second wine pairing, pop! The table has been set prior, of course ;). Now sip, feast, and take that trip down memory lane. Once all have indulged accordingly and had time to digest, a pre-made dessert awaits.

Course 3Pinenut Brittle with Rosemary served aside French vanilla ice cream(definitely Haagen Dazs for us) with a sprinkle of sea salt. Alternatively, consider creme brûlée, which is shockingly easy to make. Wine pairing “2015 Villa Creek Neo Noir, a Banyuls style light red dessert wine with notes of anise, vanilla bean and cocoa powder.”

Side note, if you opt for the creme brûlée, I highly recommend investing in a kitchen torch. Surprisingly, I use this tool more often than one would imagine, to brûlée, caramelize or brown a number of different dessert recipes. You can also use it for roasting. It’s always a talking point, kids love to watch… it’s Instagram worthy for sure! Additionally, having this will avoid you having to leave the table to brûlée the dessert in the broiler. If your opting for the brittle, just scoop, plate, drizzle and salt.

One last cheers, with our final wine selection. This time to commence the night. Imagine everyone’s face reflecting a feeling of ease knowing we were able to find a way to salvage the holidays after all! Perhaps a repeat for New Year’s Eve? Maybe this time with our dearest friends, followed by an after hours game of quarantune!