The wreck of Christmas parties past

From December 7 to December 27, we spent just 4 nights at home. The rest of the time, we were either going to a party or throwing a party or cooking something to take to a party or sleeping off a party or washing clothes to attend another party. On the 20th nearly-consecutive night of parties, we attended a “festive casual supper” of 42 people, all relatives of ours, stretching to second cousins once removed and ex-step-aunt-in-laws.

    One efficient party-giving gesture is cooking big pieces of meat. For one party, we semi-smoked a turkey (more on that below). For another, we made gumbo from the turkey. For another, we made our own homemade honey-baked ham. And finally, the beef roast, but that’s a story for another day.

Semi-smoked turkey was a huge success. We roasted a 12-pound turkey for about 3 hours, so it wasn’t yet done, but approaching it. We fired up the smoker and stoked it with mesquite, then put the turkey in a roasting pan and into the smoker for an hour. When it registered 150 degrees, we called it “done,” tented it in foil for a while, then  rushed it to the cutting board. It had  just the right amount of smoke flavor and was perfectly moist. And truly, I did not hing but oil and salt the skin, then put it in the oven, then transfer it to the smoker. People were arriving in minutes, so we didn’t shoot a photo.

    • You may be one of those people, like me, who love flavor pyrotechnics, so here’s one we conjured around the party table. A hunk of semi-smoked turkey, a swipe of wasabi mayo, a single

zinfandel-simmered cranberry

     and a chunk of pickled watermelon rind. Searing hot, sweet, firm, chewy, tender. Da-yum. Took a photo of it, but accidentally deleted it.

(Just an aside on the smoker itself: my brother bought it from a guy who sells them from the empty lot near the 12th Avenue branch library in Nashville on Saturdays in good weather. The guy is a welder from Mt. Juliet. He converts discarded water heaters into smokers just the right size for civilian use.)

    • It’s not every day that someone tosses their best easy recipe your way.  The

home-baked honey ham

     was one of these. My mother-in-law makes a refined-tasting ham for holiday breakfasts, and just rattled off the formula one afternoon. Buy a canned ham or a semi-boneless ham. It should say fully cooked, or ready to at, which you wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. Wipe off or rinse the ham, dry it a little so the honey will stick, then coat it with honey. Wrap it in two layers of foil and seal it well. Bake it in a roasting pan at about 300 degrees for 3 hours. Cool and slice. Two steps, great ham.

If I’d shot just three photos per party, that would have been 48 pictures. Besides the professionally shot photos of party number two, I only have two to offer. This is Spicy Nut Mix from recipezaar. Despite the name, it’s not especially spicy, and it’s a nice offering for the noneaters of sweets.

It really IS the most wonderful time of the year

My holiday kicks off each year with my neighbor’s annual Thanksgiving open house. I get to party without cooking or cleaning, drink before noon, see fun people AND eat something made with condensed soup.

She’s been throwing this party for 27 years, so it runs like clockwork, and everyone has a routine by now. Here, we indulge in the annual gluttony of Shrimp Mousse.

    The Shrimp Mousse is your basic Southern entertaining formula – animal lipid-plus seafood-plus-hot stuff-– in a fish-shaped mold. Some years it is elaborately decorated, with olive “eyes” and cucumber “scales.” In the early 1990s it took a turn to the low-fat side. One year it broke in half and was repaired with cream cheese.

As you can see from the yellowing, cracking recipe, the ingredients are the same. But this year, the mousse was especially good. Perhaps it was the pickle decorations.
The party combined old faves with a new feature: a monster slab of flourless chocolate truffle cake for the birthday of the oldest daughter.

Every time I spotted my child Sweet Cheeks, she was stuffing chocolate decadence into her mouth. She ate at least five pieces, and by the party’s end, was so amped on caffeine that she cried for an hour. Ah, the holidays.

I was so consumed with gluttony and photography that I missed my annual chat with my friend Stuart. Sorry Stu. We’ll catch up next year.