I have a thing for Holidays. I always have. They are benchmarks of seasons and of time. Last year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special was titled “Last Christmas” and in one of the more emotional scenes in the episode, Clara (the Doctor’s Companion) tells The Doctor that she wanted to stay in the forced dream state they had spent the episode trying to escape because “every Christmas is last Christmas”. You never know what next year will look like. You never know who will have joined or left the holiday table. All you have is the holiday itself to mark things as they are, celebrate the things that were, and generate another memory to remember during the things that are coming- whatever they are.
Holidays should be spent at home. And for me, I think they should be spent creating the kind of meal that people will remember. I ended up doing a three course meal that I intentionally tried to incorporate Spring, history, and myself into. I probably took the dinner too seriously – but screw it. You should take these things seriously.
Every holiday dinner is the last holiday dinner. Who shows up is who remembers and these dinners should be the kind you don’t forget. I am tempted here to insert some odious cliché as I have been dancing around more than one throughout this post but I’ll save it for later. I will say that as I am developing this fledging blog that this is the kind of post that really defines what I believe the food experience is.
We live in a world built for forgetting. It’s amazing how threadbare so much of what we do becomes when we engage in the things built to remember. Holidays are a gut check. It’s up to you to make them what you need them to be and what they should be. Whether your celebration is Norman Rockwell or Archie Bunker – these days are you and your life. And, each one is the last one. So eat.
This would be a 2000 word post if I did all the courses together. We will start with the first one today. Check back tomorrow for the steak course and Wednesday for the main course. (Spoilers: it involves ham, zucchini, and two types of filling)
Course One: Matzo Ball Soup
This was my first time making this soup. I used this recipe from Serious Eats as a guide. The end product really tasted like chicken – in a good way. I paired the soup with a slice of rye bread from Wegmans bakery and a kale salad I threw together. I wanted to emphasize the holiday spirit of the meal and connect a bit with the Jewish side of my family that has always been a bit distant as they are in Germany.
For the stock:
This is about as standard and repeated as a stock can be.
5 pounds of chicken breasts (bones, and everything)
one large onion chopped
chopped celery to match the amount of the onion (USE ALL THE AVAILABLE LEAVES)
chopped carrot to match
four chopped parsnips
Liberal use of Kosher Salt
18 cups of water (or enough that it just covers everything)
Put it all in a big ol pot, get it up to a low boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour and a half. Boom stock done. Strain it well.
*Regarding the herbs… this is up to you. Make the stock the way you want it to taste. I like a pronounced herb flavor so I used 4 sprigs of thyme, 6 sage leaves that I had torn up, a stalk of rosemary (I always use a little less rosemary because I want it to meld with the other herbs – not dominate like it likes to), a handful of parsley, three bay leaves, and then 6 or 7 juniper berries (squeezed slightly) and 6 or 7 peppercorns (lightly crushed). I really think these are classic and defining flavors for stock, soups, and stews. You make the call.
For the soup:
Again – I followed this recipe (click to see) to make the matzo soup itself. The only thing I added was a bunch of coarsely ground pepper in the matzo mix itself. For schmaltz – I let the stock cool for a few hours and I skimmed the fat off the surface.
That recipe is fantastic. Crack some pepper and add some dill to the serving bowls. It’s a chicken explosion. And It is awesome.
For the Kale Salad:
Process a bunch of kale in the food processor. Chop a scallion and mix it into the kale. Make your favorite vinagrette and add the amount you like. (I made a honey and apple cider vinagrette – two teaspoons of honey, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar). Super simple.
Serve it the soup as described above with the rye bread a and a couple of spoonfuls of the kale salad on the side.
Next time on Kleiner’s Kitchen: Course 2: Chile dressed Field Greens with Flank Steak and Pickled Red Onion