Foodie Tuesday: You Eat What You Like, and I’ll Eat What I Like

Besides being a wise quote from my perennial hero, Yukon Cornelius, the title of today’s post is pretty great advice for eaters at all times, most particularly so during the holidays. If I’m going to go to the expense and effort to do anything special for a Special Occasion, it matters far more to me that I want to eat the results than that they meet anybody else’s standard for tradition, impressiveness, or perfection. You won’t find me dining on dainties of glorious extravagance and beauty on a holiday or birthday or any other notable date if I’m the designated cook, because spending exhausting and exacting hours in the scullery before the blessed event is not my idea of a great way to arrive at it rested and ready to enjoy its importance in my life with good cheer and an even temperament.

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Appetizer parfait: hash browns (I made these with Gouda and smoked paprika), sour cream, hot smoked wild Pacific salmon and capers. Or, in the alternative version I offered on the same day–another easy to prepare ahead topping for the hash browns–smoked sausage pieces simmered in Pinot Noir BBQ sauce. The sauce was a sticky reduction of equal amounts of red wine and homemade bone broth with brown sugar, tomato passata, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne to taste. Guests could assemble the tiny dishes with any combination they liked, and I didn’t have to wrestle with the hors-d’oeuvres at all on the day of the party.

So while I adore Dungeness crab, I will not likely be preparing one fresh and mucking about with the tedious chore of meticulously picking the meat out of the shell–if I can find fresh Dungeness already picked and packed in a neat little carton, it’ll be on the menu; otherwise, not. My fondness for elaborate baked goods will likely be fed by an outstanding bakery, not by my slavish efforts right before a party. I’ll happily dine on a perfectly frenched rack of lamb or a miraculously flaky and tender kulebiaka or bistilla, but only if someone else is going to all of the effort it takes to prepare it.

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Homemade macaroni and cheese can be just as easy to fix as pre-packaged. Here, I blended shredded Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses in about equal amounts and added melted butter, eggs, smoked paprika, powdered mustard, a little grated nutmeg, and a tiny dash of liquid smoke (no additives, please) before stirring the cooked pasta in with a bit of cream and baking it to melt and meld it all together.

That’s how, when Christmas dining is at home, it may go so far as to be a roast beef that can be cooked sous vide and requires only a quick browning in the oven before carving, but it might also be a made-ahead, very down-to-earth macaroni and cheese. Or even a tuna salad sandwich, a perpetual favorite that, while it’s hardly what anyone I know would consider Fancy, is gladly eaten with a handful of good potato chips and a juicy apple on nearly any occasion chez nous. I want to eat delicious food on Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be unusual or expensive or showy in any way to be delicious, and if its simplicity of preparation means that it’s eaten in a very comfortably relaxed state, that makes it all the more appealing and enhances its flavor remarkably.

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Homemade mac-&-cheese is, in fact, also easy to customize for any number of tastes and occasions, as when I change out the elbow macaroni with some fresh fettuccine and toss in a batch of Langostino tails. Voila! ‘Poor man’s’ lobster fettuccine.

I hope that everyone who is celebrating around now–whether it’s Christmas, the Dongzhi festival, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, the New Year, Kwanzaa, a birthday, or something entirely different–has the wealth and freedom to take the same approach. It’s satisfying to arrive at happy events relaxed and, well, happy. And eating what you love to eat is always better than eating what you think you should eat, only because you think you should. I wish you all great food, simply prepared, great company when you want it and quiet time away when you need it. That’ll make the food taste all the better when it comes. Cheers! Bon appetit! Joy!

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Who says plain salt-and-pepper roasted chicken isn’t fancy enough for a special occasion? If you enjoy it, indulge. Even with the most common of accompaniments, it can be satisfying and tasteful (clockwise from the ruby-colored jellied cranberry sauce at left): pickles (here, okra, green tomatoes and green beans); sweet corn; coleslaw; apple sauce (freshly made brandied maple sauce); mashed baked potatoes with beurre noisette, fried sage leaves and optional red wine/broth reduction sauce; and a spoonful of tiny, tasty green peas. And if you’re a vegetarian, you can always eat the whole rest of the meal and be content. Peas to all the earth, I say!

Even desserts–maybe especially desserts, come to think of it–can get treated like such elaborate FabergΓ© egg-like constructions that they are too precious for ordinary mortals to eat and far too tiring for me to slave over preparing. I’ve hardly ever seen anyone turn up his nose at store-bought ice cream or refuse if I offered her a nice piece of chocolate straight out of the wrapper. A bowl of perfect fresh strawberries, a moist pound cake made the other day, and a quick batch of whipped cream with vanilla give instant summer cachet to the end of a meal. Banana pudding needn’t even be a fuss, and doesn’t look really like much (hence the lack of a photo), but it’s unpretentious and tasty enough that everyone right down to the toddlers will happily eat that old comfort favorite.

Banana Pudding to Make You Go Ape

Don’t bother with cheap, phony tasting artificially flavored instant banana pudding, either, despite a short timeline for the treat (unless you get all nostalgic over it for some reason). All you actually need is some really ripe bananas and a handful of other ingredients, and away you go…

Blend together until smooth (I use the stick blender for this): 5 overripe bananas (too mushy for eating plain), a pinch of salt, the juice and grated rind of 1 large lemon, a generous teaspoon of vanilla, a couple of tablespoons each of raw honey and butter, and about a cup of heavy cream. Chill until thickened. What do you taste? Bananas. What will you do? Go bananas over it. Why work harder than that for your food and fun? Enjoy your holidays and happy days instead!

Oh, and I must add (since what goes without saying may not entirely go without saying for everybody!) that this kind of banana pudding will, of course, oxidize–unlike the aforementioned imitation stuff–so it’s best eaten right when you’ve made it unless you’re like me and don’t care if it’s a little beige in color. And it’s not super thick, so if you like it thicker, I recommend whipping the cream separately and then folding it into the blended banana mash, to which you’ve already added the other ingredients. No matter how you choose to make it, it’s still pretty tasty. And, as Marie has suggested in the comments and I’ve already tested, it makes a dandy breakfast!

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Happy New Year!

17 thoughts on “Foodie Tuesday: You Eat What You Like, and I’ll Eat What I Like

  1. Kathryn, I’ve tried to simplify our meals this holiday season and so far it’s worked quite well. There are 9 of us in the house right now so we really need to! I do agree that the important thing is to be relaxed enough to enjoy the company of family and friends. Cheers!

    • Terri, hope your 9-person partying is a joy from beginning to end! Part of the simplicity plan, of course, is to put everyone to work doing what they’re best at doing so no one has the bulk of the work and everyone gets to share in the fun (not to mention assuring that everyone has better chances of getting their own favorite party treats!). Peace, love and happiness to you all. πŸ˜€
      Kathryn

    • Must be my Norsk blood, but I don’t think I’ve yet met a potato dish I didn’t like. πŸ˜€ Hash browns, crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside and loaded with butter, are high on that list, in particular!

  2. We agree on so many points but, in particular, on processed foods. Why buy them when homemade is very often just as easy to prepare and always the healthier option? As for the fancy desserts, I am not at all impressed if I need an instruction manual to eat the darn thing. I’d be more than happy with your banana pudding and will let you know how I like it. πŸ™‚
    I hope you both are blessed with a New Year filled with Happiness, Kathryn.

    • Check my addendum above–I think this version is a little soupier than some might prefer, but it’s easily adjusted. And pretty yummy, if I do say so myself. I was thinking of substituting almond extract for the vanilla, too, next time, and of course it’d be pretty good with cocoa or melted chocolate added, and that’d take care of the oxidized color…. πŸ˜€

      Happy, happy 2014 to you and all of your fabulous family, too, John!!!

    • Whip some up and drool directly on the food, then! Much of the stuff from this post is already gone, but there’s always an excuse to make more, should anyone show up salivating at the door! πŸ˜€

  3. I am with John – and you! I will take your simply scrumptious, homemade banana pudding over anything processed, any day! πŸ™‚ I like that you included all of the holidays – and reminded us to be happy, festive and joyful for whatever, whenever. Take care, Kathryn! Yummy Tuesday! Shanna

  4. Delicious has as much to do with having time to enjoy the food, as it does with how much time and love go into preparing the food. I’m all for making ahead and then having plenty of time to enjoy good company (and good food). Especially loved the fettuccine and Langostino tails idea, and might have to experiment with that one the next time I’m looking to elevate the always-on-hand mac n cheese, with a tasty variation. Best to you and yours in the New Year!

    • I hope 2014 is full of fabulous fun and happiness for you, too! May you find peace, love and joy in great abundance, my friend. And yes, plenty of mac ‘n’ cheese!! πŸ˜€
      xoxo,
      Kathryn

  5. Dining in your home has to be a genuine pleasure at any time of the year; wonderful photos of tantalizing, sumptuous fare. Did you add to your list of culinary delights the Texas traditional blackeyed peas for good luck at midnight on New Year’s Eve, in spite of your admonition to avoid eating what you are “supposed” to eat because somebody says that’s what you should eat?

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