Monday, December 15, 2008

Tis the Season

Every year, my family hosts the Yule Log Party. Traditionally, it's supposed to be the Saturday before Christmas, but if that ends up being Christmas Eve or a day or two before that, then the party is the week before. By traditionally, I mean what our family does. Historically, yule logs can be traced back to pagan celebrations of winter solstice, as well as Christian roots. Wikipedia gives a very brief synopsis. For my family, it's a holiday party with lots of great food and drink and friends.

Guests arrive around 7pm. Everyone brings a dessert. In my hometown, potlucks are a way to get some of the best food imaginable. Everyone prides themselves on making the most delicious food they can (I think people actually see it as a friendly competition). When Dave and I got married, I suggested that people from my hometown bring a dish to share, as their gift. Dave was incredulous (to him potluck meant jello salad and pigs in a blanket). I persisted, assuring him it would be delicious; my people pulled through and he still talks about how amazing the food was.

Anyway, to make a long story longer, when everyone has arrived and taken off their winter garb, they put it back on and we all traipse outside to find the Yule Log, which my dad has hidden earlier in the day. We follow a trail of candles to the log, which is decorated with boughs of fir trees and red ribbons. We all sing Christmas carols and then, when everyone is sufficiently sung out, hungry, and cold, we bring the log inside, put it on the fire, and eat and drink and are merry until the wee hours of the morning.

The centerpiece of the food is eggnog. This recipe is from one of my parents' oldest friends, whom they met at childbirth classes. This recipe calls for raw egg, and I'd love to give a substitute for those wary of salmonella, but there really isn't one.

Ann's Eggnog

3 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups milk
Ground nutmeg

Beat yolks to a lemon color. Add sugar and chill.
When chilled, beat egg whites and fold into yolk/sugar mixture.
Add nutmeg to taste.
Before serving, whip the cream and add it and milk to egg mixture.
Spike if desired.

Note on eggnog: if you decide to buy eggnog instead of making your own, try cutting it with milk. I find that most eggnogs are way too thick and sweet. I often add as much as one part milk to one part commercial eggnog.

Cookies are a staple on the dessert table.

Chocolate espresso cookies.
My sister found this recipe somewhere, years ago. It needs to be started the day before.

In a double boiler (if you don't have one - I don't - use a pan and a metal bowl that fits into it) melt 1 3/4 cups chocolate chips, and 4 TBSP unsalted butter.

In a separate bowl, whisk 2 eggs and 3/4 cups sugar. Stir in 1 teas. espresso grounds. Add this to the chocolate mixture. Cool.

Combine 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 teas. baking powder. Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips.
Cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Make TBSP - sized balls. Put on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 375. Grease a cookie sheet. Put balls on it, 2 inches apart. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.


This recipe is from my friend Brendan.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1/2 teas. vanilla

In a separate bowl, combine:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teas. salt
1/4 teas. baking soda
1/4 teas. cream of tartar

Add dry to wet and stir until mixed.

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix 2 TBSP sugar and 2 teas. cinnamon. Roll dough into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in sugar mix.
Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.