As a die-hard foodie, the Holidays always bring about the mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety. I love to cook the traditional dishes and bake the heartwarming cookies of my childhood. They are filled with memories and evoke feelings of warmth and home. At the same time, I feel a certain amount of pressure and anxiety to come up with something new and different. I like to challenge myself to learn new techniques and discover new ingredients to cook with. At the same time, the hustle and bustle of the Holidays makes time to experiment a bit challenging.
What I have come to do, in an effort to simplify life, is to decide which traditional dishes or baked goods I absolutely must have and plan for them. Then I look to make something new that I haven’t done before and I challenge myself to reinvent one of the traditional dishes I love.
For example, at Thanksgiving this year I had to have Scalloped Corn, one of the recipes from an earlier post (Holiday Food Traditions). I love it and it is something I can’t spend a holiday without having. Then I found a Pumpkin Pie recipe online called Ginger Pumpkin Pie. Now I LOVE me some ginger so I thought that was one tradition I would update. It was so delicious! With three tablespoons of fresh grated ginger in that pie it had so much flavor and it was a huge hit! I made a traditional pumpkin pie too after we ran out of the ginger variety and it was good but I sure missed the more flavorful version. I think that will be the new tradition now!
My friend Vince brought his sous-vide precision cooker. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this innovative cooking technique, water is heated and held to a specific temperature; say 135°F for a medium rare steak. The precision cooker keeps the water at that consistent temperature. You pack the meat, vegetable, or whatever you’re cooking into a zip lock or FoodSaver vacuum sealed bag and submerge it in the water for a specific time. The product doesn’t overcook because it is heated to that temperature and then held. You can sear the meat before and/or after you sous-vide it to finish it and perhaps create a pan sauce. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend the ChefSteps website. They offer free basic classes in sous-vide and have amazing recipes to try.
One of the cool applications of sous-vide is to cook eggs in their shell in the water bath. You can cook eggs to soft boil (158°F) and hold them for a couple hours so that people can eat breakfast whenever they wake or want to and have perfect soft boiled eggs hot and ready. This allows restaurants to offer eggs benedict made to order on a brunch buffet and now you can do it at home too! So this is what we did for breakfast the morning after Thanksgiving. It was so awesome; I ordered one of the home precision cookers as soon as the Cyber Monday sales started! (I got the Anova One. It’s awesome.) Now I’ll get to do something new and innovative for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Stay tuned for whatever it is I decide to do 😄
So the key for me in avoiding the stress of Holiday cooking is to have a plan.
1. Decide what I want to make that I love and can’t live without. Things I know how to do and can do in my sleep basically.
2. Then decide what new things I want to try but limit it to a few.
This allows me to be creative and have fun without creating too much craziness in my life.