The holidays are full of traditions; some new, some old, some we love and some we hate.
When I was growing up my family either had Sloppy Joes or Chili on Christmas Eve, followed by lots of Christmas cookies, homemade fudge, divinity, and popcorn balls. My mother had a bit of a sweet tooth…..
When mon mari and I married we started doing 'our' Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve as Christmas Day we would be traveling somewhere to be with the extended family for dinner.
Our tradition became a Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding, fresh Asparagus, (which, at the time, was difficult to get, rather expensive and a real treat) and Smoked Salmon (which, at the time, was difficult to get, rather expensive and a real treat).
We ordered the smoked salmon through the Williams-Sonoma catalogue and it was shipped to us from (I think) the Spey Valley in Scotland.
Good smoked salmon (and this was wonderful) should be served simply:
5oz (150gr) smoked salmon, Irish or Scottish
2 slices whole wheat bread, buttered, crusts trimmed and sliced into fourths
2 eggs, hard boiled
2 tbs minced onion
2 tbs small or minced capers
sprinkle of pepper
Boil eggs – can be done earlier in the day. Peel and quarter eggs.
OR Finely chop egg whites and yolks, keeping separate.
To serve: lay salmon out on plates. Arrange bread points, lemon, capers, egg, onion around salmon, pour the champagne and serve.
If the salmon is really good, I pass on the capers, onion and lemon…. Just a bit of buttered bread is all it wants.
We were quite happy with our tradition…. Until we moved to France.
Our nice, well-established tradition ran smack into French foie gras. When one goes into a supermarket or Christmas market this time of year the counters, piled high with foie gras, are everywhere (as well as containers of goose fat and duck fat – 'tis the season)
We both want lots and lots of Smoked Salmon….
We both want lots and lots of Foie Gras…
I have lobbied for a dinner of Smoked Salmon to start, followed by Foie Gras and Potatoes Sarlat-style (fried in duck fat) with Mont d'Or cheese (a triple cream cheese so decadent it's only available at Christmas and only in the area it's produced…. One eats it with a spoon) and dark chocolate truffles.
Then we could do it all again the next day.
Don't you think that's a great dinner menu?
Mon mari disagrees.
He seems to think he should have real meat and some vegetables….. (Chocolate comes from beans – all the veg I need).
So, we'll have smoked salmon for one meal and the foie gras for another.
Somehow, I'll survive….
For those of you with moral issues regarding foie gras – you may stop reading now.
An entire foie gras will usually be enough for 4 people. Try for half, or 1 lobe, or plan on having it again (oh, how I suffer….).
Pan-Seared Foie Gras
1 lobe of foie gras
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp molasses
3 tbs red wine
2 – 4 slices of whole grain bread, toasted and cut into quarters
The sauce: In a small saucepan heat the vinegar, molasses and red wine and allow to reduce by half.
The Foie Gras: Look at the foie gras – if you see veins going through gently pull them out. Cut 6 nice slices about 1/2 inch (1.25cm) thick.
Keep foie gras cold – take it out of the fridge to slice, then put it back in until ready to cook.
Heat a large, heavy, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. A drop of water should sizzle and evaporate instantly.
Put the foie gras slices in the pan and sear 40 – 50 seconds per side for rare. If you want it medium-rare cook another 5 – 10 seconds per side.
If you have to have it more done choose something else to have as you will not like this.Remove to a paper towel for a second to absorb a bit of fat, sprinkle each side with sea salt, put on warm plates, drizzle with vinegar reduction and serve with toast points.
Now the notes:
It is easiest to clean the foie gras if it is at room temperature, but may not
need cleaning. Mine didn't.
It is best to slice it with a hot knife – run sharp knife under hot water.
It has to be cold before searing so refrigerate after slicing for at least 15 minutes.
Warm the plates the same way as the knife – run under hot water, then dry. They shouldn't be hot, just not cold.
I'll be thinking of you (you know who you are) this Christmas when I make the Foie Gras……