Over the river and through the woods to Mom's house in Sacramento, where we are always rewarded by first booze (let's get our priorities straight), then food and complete authority over the remote control.
D played bartender and made Mom her favorite pink drink. I know some people feel (aka über hip bartender at 1886 Bar at in The Raymond who, scoffing at a client's Cosmo, informed me he planned to school Pasadena in the new art of cocktailing) that the Cosmopolitan is démodé. However, the cook should always be afforded full leeway with regard to their drinking preferences. And I will be damned if D doesn't make a durn good Cosmo. To hades with trend, I say. And bring on the vodka. I happily joined her.
D shook himself (gasp, he might have bruised the vodka) a Belevedere martini straight up with a little citrus squeeze. And an appetizer. The appies on hand were savory Parmesan shortbread cookies. Just as insanely delicious as they sound. I ate a few Boxing Day on the long drive home.
As a kid, I used to have to help scrub these behemoths after dinner with copper scrubbing powder. They still taunt me to this day. I own one Revere Ware copper pan and I refuse to cook with it on principle. Beautiful to look at and a dream to cook in but a beast to clean. I am lazy like that.
Mom always sets a beautiful table. She has been collecting sterling serving pieces she uses on a holiday or dinner party table since I was a kid. She started out by trolling garage sales and thrift stores back in the salad days and now seeks out bargains at antique stores. Her collection is so fun to look at.
Joy deserves a second round.
We started with a Lamb's lettuce salad with blood orange supremes, pistachios and pomegranate seeds in a light blood orange vinaigrette. Blood oranges from her tree!
And because this year it was just the three of us for dinner, I begged and pleaded successfully for her famous fried chicken. My favorite food from childhood.
Mom's Fried Chicken
1 chicken, cut into parts or chicken parts pre-cut
Italian herbs or herbs de Provence
Salt and pepper fairly dry chicken parts. Add all dry ingredients to a paper or plastic zip lock bag. (Mom uses paper, I use plastic because sometimes the flour mixture spills out through the seams at the bottom of the bag). Season dry ingredients to taste. Toss 2-4 pieces of chicken in dry mixture, coat thoroughly. Fry for 12-14 minutes per side in electric frying pan at 350F. And by side, consider most chicken pieces have at least three sides, some might have four. Wings usually only have two, but every other piece has all the edge sides that definitely deserve a 9-12 minute turn in the hot oil. Drain on paper towels.
The great thing about fried chicken is that it's delicious at room temperature or even chilled. She cooked the chicken and had to set it aside, festivities took priority over dinner. My brother's family dropped by unexpectedly to exchange gifts, and I was soon embroiled in a long Monopoly game with A and R, which R won like a stealth ninja capitalist tycoon. R even engaged in acts of philanthropy, trying to slyly hand his poor aunt welfare in the form of Monopoly money. At the end of the game, the little plutocrat had a stack of 500's bigger than my cocktail. Harumph.
When we finally sat down to eat, almost 9 o'clock, we were all starving and a little tipsy. The notable side dish. Fried chicken is nothing without mashed potatoes. And this year Mom changed up her gravy recipe. She made a mushroom gravy using duxelles. Insanely delicious, powerfully mushroomy.
Christmas dog lies on floor gazing up dreamily at the fried chicken.
Dessert. Chocolate ganache and raspberry tarts in hazelnut crust. These are so gorgeous, they look professionally done. Gobstoppingly beautiful.
Mom's Christmas bonsai. That's the Lakers in the background getting their Christmas asses handed to them on a Miami Heat platter.
Merry Christmas, Mom.