Christmas '10 Dinner

Another year, another Christmas dinner with the cousins and of course another shot of sizzling bacon. This year though,
I tried to tackle too ambitious of a menu. As such, there is a distinct lack of prep photos and mostly just finished
product shots. And since I tried to cook everything myself, some of the dishes didn't turn out quite how I would have
liked. Also as it turned out, the menu was too protein heavy and most of us were pretty stuffed by the time the entree
was served. The meal consisted of an amuse bouche, two appetizers, a soup, the entree, and finally dessert.

Anyhow, without further ado, let's get to it. The amuse bouche was kind of a play on shrimp cocktail. It consisted of
a homemade cocktail sauce, flour tortillas that I cut into little squares and fried, chopped thai basil, and of course
shrimp. This dish was a huge success and well liked even by people who later told me they don't even like shrimp.

Next up was the first appetizer, the ribeye sliders. I obtained some ribeye steaks from Costco with the intention of
grinding them up for burger patties. The plan was to get prime grade ribeye. Unfortunately, they had sold out of the
prime so I had to settle for choice which is more or less just as good. Here is my cousin and I grinding the steaks.

The ground steak was formed into patties and dusted with salt and pepper.

I seared the patties on cast iron skillets and topped them with a slice emmentaler cheese. The sliders were finished with
some carmelized onions, mushrooms that I had pan fried in duck fat, bacon, and some baby arugula. The buns were challa
bread that got brushed with butter on both sides and lightly toasted.

This dish was the first of several mistakes I made. After pan frying the patties, I placed them into the oven to keep
warm while I prepared some of the other ingredients. This caused the burgers to overcook which irked me greatly.

The second appetizer was sausage en croute, which just means sausage in crust. Essentially pigs in a blanket except a
bit more refined. This dish was a late addition because in the email chain with my cousins discussing the dinner, one of
them threw out pigs in a blanket as a joke. But that got me thinking and I came upon a recipe that took sausages and
wrapped them in puff pastry with carmelized onions. I got the sausage at a butcher in San Marcos called T&H Prime Meats.
They have a huge variety of sausages and meats available. I got one called smoked imperial onion. This one was really
easy to prepare and came out pretty good I think.

And now we come to the entree, seared duck breast and potato pancakes topped with an apple chutney and a little side
salad. Also, the soup was combined with the entree because at that point we didn't want to have it separately. I found
some beautiful duck breasts at Whole Foods.

I seared the duck in cast iron skillets very slowly so the fat renders out and leaves the skin extra crispy.

A perfect medium rare.

I don't have any prep pictures of the potato pancakes or the apple chutney but you can see them here. I twice fried
the potato pancakes to get them extra crispy; once in regular oil and the second time in duck fat for that extra flavor.

The chutney was the second of my mistakes. I had prepared it earlier in the day with the intention of just reheating
it when it came time to serve. Unfortunately, while reheating, I left it on the burner too long and burned a good portion
of it on the bottom. Luckily, we were able to salvage most of it from the top but the overheating had reduced it much
more than I had intended. I wanted it to be more syrupy in consistency but as you can see, most of the liquid had
evaporated away.

The small salad consisted of orange and grapefruit supremes, julienned apples, and fresh sprouts.

The soup consisted of a dashi base that I made, various mushrooms, tofu cubes, shrimp, and scallops. There were a
few more things that should have gone into the soup but it slipped my mind. Yet another mistake on my part but in the
end it didn't really matter because most of us were too full to even finish it. It still turned out pretty good though in
spite of the circumstances.

And finally we get to dessert. A while ago, my brother, a couple cousins, and I went up to Torrance for lunch at a
Japanese restaurant called Gaja for okonomiyaki. Next door to this restaurant is a small pastry shop called
Patisserie Chantilly. This place had the most amazing cream puffs, and I don't even really like cream puffs. But
that's what this place was known for so we decided to get some. Again, the most amazing cream puffs ever. My
brother decided to get some for the last course of this dinner. They come in three flavors, cream, sesame, and
chocolate. Cream is by far the best with sesame in second.

My brother wanted to get two cream puffs for each person but I told him that would be way too much and to get something
else instead. So he got some macaroons for everyone.

Here are some miscellaneous pictures from the night.

Always have to look at the time while cooking.

All in all a pretty good dinner. There were some hits and there were some misses. My cousins tell me everything was
good but I have higher standards for myself. The logistics of cooking for 12+ people make it difficult to get everything
perfect. Also, my own overconfidence was kind of my undoing. I insisted on doing absolutely everything myself and with
such a labor intensive menu made for some missteps. If I do this again next year, I'll definitely be smarter with the
menu planning and also go back to having my cousins make some of the sides and stuff as well.