For some, the Christmas dinner is the family meal of the year. For the past few years, the breakfast on that day has become the main event.
Chalk it up to people’s schedules, which extend late into Christmas Eve. By the time I get to my colleague Bonnie’s house, it’s late in the morning. No one has any church services left to play for (Bonnie and her husband are organists, I play in a bell choir), and no one has anything on their minds but a strong cup of coffee and a desire to relax as late as possible. The work of the holiday is done. Now comes the time to snuggle up with a cat (there are enough to go around) and let the ease of the day envelop you.
It’s the perfect setting to make a meal in as leisurely a manner as possible.
It’s also a great time to experiment. So, one year we made Eggnog French Toast, in which the cinnamon-raisin bread was drenched in an eggy sauce before being fried. A touch of rum, a sprinkle of nutmeg, a little more cinnamon, and we were all set. A few jalapeño-cheddar links from our favorite Texas sausage maker completed the meal in style.
Another Christmas morning was planned to within an inch of its life because of the time it took to prepare. That was the year of the Truffled Eggs. I had never cooked with an actual truffle before (my wallet had a little more elasticity then), but I had tasted a dish in which you flavored the eggs for a week with the black truffle. You just place eggs and truffle shavings in an air-tight jar and let them set for a week; the aroma of the truffle is so strong it will permeate the shell.
When it’s time to scramble the eggs, you chop up a bit of the truffle and add a touch of truffle oil to make sure your lily has been appropriately gilded. Serve with copious amounts of Champagne to cut through the richness of the dish.
I had also made a flourless chocolate cake with grappa-soaked dried cherries and toasted pine nuts as a dessert. It, too, was so rich that we waited awhile before giving it the full attention it deserved.
Last year, it was pancakes, but with a subtle lift from applesauce. Perfect, of course, with sausage or bacon or any other pork product you have on hand.
How should we expand the repertoire this year? Bonnie has suggested something with a New Orleans touch this year, specifically beignets and Eggs Sardou. Sounds perfect. You shouldn’t be rushed when making a hollandaise sauce. And those in the kitchen can munch on the beignets along with the rest of the gathering while preparing the eggs.
Just the right unhurried feel before settling into the thrill of exchanging presents, another part of the schedule that’s been shuffled about a bit, and no one seems to mind.
Being together is what matters. If you keep that mind, your holiday meal, no matter what you serve, will be special.
(Top photo: Kasey Albano)