I’ll be honest, 2016 has been a rough year. It’s been a busy and stressful year with a lot of personal and professional ups and downs (hey, they can’t all be winning years, right?) But, I’m ready to end this year on as high a note as possible and am so looking forward to spending time with my family for Christmas. Our family really gets into the Christmas spirit. For us, it’s all about the trees, lights, gifts, baking and holiday magic, but more than anything, it’s about spending a lot of time together– for better or worse. We usually plan a large dinner on Christmas Eve (also my sister’s birthday!) and follow it up with an early morning watching kids tearing through gifts and nursing hangovers with single-drip coffee my dad patiently makes for everyone cup by cup. We eventually all get around to making a delicious and decadent breakfast, typically with lots of eggs and popovers. This year, however, I’m planning on making a biscuit spread featuring these incredible buttermilk biscuits inspired by a stellar recipe from Bon Appetite. This genius recipe layers pieces of the dough so that when it bakes it you get those beautiful distinct layers. For this biscuit spread, I’ve provided savory and sweet options. Jam, butter and honey are a must for biscuits, but what I prefer is making a breakfast sandwich out of these biscuits. Spread a layer of Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese, top with a runny sunny side up egg and top with crispy bacon. Or top the biscuit with Boursin cheese and a couple thin slices of smoked lox. Ohhh, it’s soooo good!!! Decorate your spread with plenty of winter fruit like satsuma oranges, pomegranates, persimmons, apples and pears and you’ve got yourself a Christmas morning-worthy brunch!
Oh, how I love this time of year. When else can you get away with drinking warm boozy drinks by yourself late at night, streaming the new ATCQ album, all while frantically wrapping presents by the light of a haphazardly decorated Christmas tree. Just try doing that in the summer . . . I dare you!! This year’s warm boozy drinks are brought to you by the letter ‘R’ as in, rum, and the number ‘2’ as in, two drinks are better than one! In all seriousness, today’s recipe comes from the one and only, Jennifer Farley. You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m quite The Gourmet Kitchen fanboy. Both on her blog, and now in her book, Jennifer has the uncanny ability to create elevated, yet approachable cuisine. Today’s drink is no exception. I swapped out the bourbon for rum, but feel free to use your spirit of choice. ‘Tis the season!!
Wrapping presents has to be one of my favorite things to do during the holidays. For me, it’s not about the paper but rather, the present toppers! You should see my storage box, it’s filled to the brim with Christmas themed toppers like tiny trinkets, little feathered birds, spun cotton fruits . . . you name it, I’ve got it. But this year, I’m trying something different. Gingerbread gift tags! I’m using Karen’s tried and true recipe – the same one she’s used to make her adorable mini gingerbread houses and sweet gingerbread men garlands in years past. It’s a dough that’s sturdy, making the gingerbread durable. Admittedly, decorating the tags with icing is the most challenging part, especially if you’re an amateur like me. My tip is to keep it simple. Use a single icing tip throughout and just play around with dots and lines!
It’s amazing how much you can travel through food. Exploring different cuisines and ingredients is the best part of cooking in my opinion. My kitchen is always stocked with tons of spices and cooking tools from around the world. When I travel, I make it a point to seek out things I can add to my kitchen too. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a foodie or a travel lover, these are great for anyone looking for adventure in their kitchen!
My fridge is full different kinds of hot sauces from all over the world and one of my favorites is harissa, a North African chili paste made of all kinds of chili peppers with spices and herbs like coriander, caraway and garlic. Today, I’ve made some super spicy harissa fried chicken wings– the best part of the chicken in my opinion (i.e., best crispy skin to meat ratio) which gets doused in some harissa butter hot sauce. Once the wings are out of the fryer, I sprinkle a little smoked sea salt and crushed coriander over the wings and serve it with fresh cilantro and mint. Before you eat the wings, drizzle spoonfuls of the harissa sauce over the wings. It’s like southern fried chicken meets buffalo wings in North Africa– the combination awesome. Once your mouth is on fire and you’re beginning to sweat, you’re gonna want to reach for something to soothe the flames, so I’ve made a cardamom honey milk slushie to pair with the wings. Cold milk is really the best cure for spicy food (some people think beer is, but I think carbonation makes things worse!) and this is a super ice cold milk slushie with just a touch of sweetness from the honey and fragrant cardamom (I’m having a bit of an obsession with cardamom lately). Spicy harissa chicken wings and sweet ice cold milk– I can’t think of a better combination!
One of my finest pleasures in life right now is watching Fiona bake with her mama. She’s a real natural, I tell ya. Since day one she’s being roaming the flour-laden floors of our kitchen, scouring the dark reaches of bottom drawers and cupboards for new tools. What started out as simply banging pots and pans, quickly evolved into mixing and measuring liquids by the fraction of a teaspoon. A few weeks ago, she was up on her stool rolling out dough, when the rolling pin slipped from the counter and fell to the floor. “Sh*t!” she exclaimed. Both Audrey and I immediately turned to each other in shock, and then proceed to erupt into laughter. Like mother like daughter! Today’s baking adventure, a similarly rowdy family production, is extra special. You see, our friends Natalie & Holly from The Modern Proper are hosting a virtual cookie swap! And there’s nothing Fiona likes baking more than cookies (or turkeys, as Fiona calls them). Being the holidays and all, I thought I’d reach back to my roots and share a recipe for ricciarelli, traditional Italian almond cookies, from Siena. This cookie really couldn’t get much simpler. It’s essentially a mix of almond meal, almond paste, and a little egg white to bind (& naturally gluten-free). As expected, Fiona thoroughly enjoyed rolling out the dough, and of course,
dusting dousing the finished products with powdered sugar. These little joyous bites of almond are perfect for casual holiday snacking. And remember, for more cookie inspiration, be sure to check out The Modern Proper for a full list of all the other delicious cookie swap creations!!