Day: December 24th, 2006

Christmas Eve 2006

Sunday, December 24th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Family

Christmas Eve began with a leisurely brunch in the neighborhood, albeit one sans Bloody Marys, thanks to New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, which prohibits the sale of alcohol between 4AM and noon on Sundays.

So we ordered hot coffees from the apologetic server to accompany our Basil-Mozzarella Empanadas with Chimchurri Sauce, Norwegian Eggs, and Porcini, Spinach and Goat Cheese Baked Eggs. All delicious, and a fine way to start off Christmas Eve.

What is it about the holidays that makes us yearn for the warm and familiar?

Cafe Ronda Empanadas

Norwegian Eggs

Cafe Ronda Baked Eggs

Later in the afternoon, I met the family with my freshly-made Thomas Keller marshmallows after their fancy tea at Fauchon. For our Christmas Eve dinner in Whitestone, Mom had forgone the usual ham and prepared a spread for Chinese Hot Pot (a.k.a. Fire Pot) — the East Asian hybrid of soup and fondue. Hot pot pairs a shared kettle of bubbling broth with raw ingredients that are simmered, boiled, blanched or dipped as part of a communal dining experience. For our dinner, there were thin slices of marinated beef and pork, shrimp and cuttlefish balls, whole shrimp, spinach leaves, pea shoots, two kinds of tofu, Chinese cabbage and bean thread noodles.

The meal is sometimes eaten as part of the traditional Chinese New Year feast, and is especially welcome during the winter weeks, even unseasonably warm ones. The entire endeavor is a leisurely, interactive event; the roundness of the pot symbolizes unity, as family and friends gather around to cook and to share. After the meal, what remains is the broth, richly flavored with all the ingredients of the dinner. And in our case: lots and lots of leftovers to be distributed and packaged for the “kids” to take to their respective homes.

Restaurants offering the hot pot abound in Flushing’s Chinatown. In Manhattan, I like Grand Sichuan on Canal near the Manhattan Bridge entrance, and the cheerfully-monikered Happy Shabu Shabu, farther East on Canal, whose website offers the following helpful tips for the hot pot novice:

Don’t feel intimidated if you’ve never done this before: 99 out of 99 people get it right on the first try. Just make sure your pot of liquid is hot — it doesn’t have to be boiling away, but hot enough to see some steam and a few bubbles. We don’t recommend putting your hand in the pot to test the temperature.

Sage advice there.

Christmas Hot Pot

The gift exchange was its typical flurry of wrapping paper, tissue and ribbon. In 2007, I will be improving my cooking skills in high style. Oh, and appreciating fine food, tunes and laughs. I’m a lucky girl.

Thanks and Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Gifts

I am awed by this family’s deep commitment to the holidays, if slightly perplexed by the one, two, three, four  Santa Clauses (that I could see) and Frosty the Snowman’s insertion into the Nativity scene on the front lawn. There’s always one in the neighborhood, no?

Christmas Lights

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