As lazy as I am when being an ‘everyday’ entertainer, that attitude of mine only multiplies and intensifies when it comes to special occasions. I have no interest in hosting a party if everyone is having fun except me. So it’s especially important to me when I’m thinking of any event, particularly a festive one like a holiday (and I’ll embrace any holiday that’ll have me, if it means an excuse for celebrations with friends and loved ones), that I do as much of the heavy lifting as I can ahead of the day. Being a piggy with a sweet tooth, and not opposed to alcohol in moderation, that means I am known on occasion to haul out the Fix It-Douse-It-Forget-It recipes. You know, the ones that you put booze in or pour it over, seal up like little yummy mummies, and tuck away in a safe spot to age until party time. Keep ’em on ice, so to speak.
One of my favorites for this used to be Christmas Pudding, usually using a classic recipe like the lovely one given to me by a friend in London the very first time I visited there nearly thirty-five years ago. I have since become even lazier; it’s a million-ingredient extravaganza with real fresh suet and tons of over-the-top fat and sugary delights, and requires fussy prep and long, carefully monitored steaming in (for those of us who lack a real pudding steamer) a low-tech contraption cobbled together from whatever substitutes one can find for the pudding tin, before one can even attend to the artful draping in layers of liquor-soaked cheesecloth and plastic wrap and tinfoil. Heavens! I’m salivating just thinking of the glory that emerged from those efforts when long weeks or months had passed and it was time for the great unveiling. A large spoonful of that miraculous stuff, re-warmed and blanketed in equally boozy hard sauce and washed down with a good stiff tot of port, and I was undoubtedly well enough pickled to last several months on a dark cupboard shelf myself. But it was a bit too much, not only the excess of caloric craziness and vaporous intake, but also in the immense labors it took to accomplish it all.
Nowadays I am (literally, to be honest) inclined toward greater ease. But I still enjoy some indulgences for the same special occasions, even holidays that might have little personal resonance if it weren’t for the permission they give me to indulge so. Now that we’re rumbling into the high holiday season as America immerses in it (and let’s just start with tomorrow, which according to my quick research, is Nevada Day—who but a handful of devoted Nevadans knew!), there will be no shortage of reasons for partying. Now that I think about it, my birthday is the feast day of La Guadalupana, and since I have without even having previously made that connection been decanting a homemade rose liqueur (from dried Mexican rosebuds, no less) that I think would be highly appropriate to her story, I might have to find excuses to tuck that event in as well. Guess that just confirms my longstanding belief that my own birthday is a major holiday.
But meanwhile, there are all kinds of seasonal treat regarded as something like a serious requirement in this country if one is to celebrate the holidays properly. Anything and everything pumpkin flavored, of course, with warming spices, the occasional fall fruits (apple, pear, quince) and maple syrup and various nutmeats thrown in—these are all high on the list, some of them with an emphasis on High. Oh, and eggnog. Never forget the eggnog. So I, being fairly easily led to hankering for food-and-drink-related things that are being touted and offered nearly everywhere I look, follow the resultant trail of salivation, if not salvation, right to the sources.
Today I felt moved to put together some of these seasonal treats, some to pop in the refrigerator for fairly immediate consumption (though intended to last for a few days in the chiller, at least), and a bit to wait for their starring moments. The former includes a Fall dessert combination of pumpkin, apple, and pecans, and the latter is this year’s take on eggnog. Because sipping champagne-and-roses (as I intend to do with a nice sparkling Rosé spiked with the aforementioned rose liqueur) is probably not enough.
Not pie, but close…to pumpkin pie, apple pie, and pecan pie, all in one big ridiculously happy dish. Or served separately, if that’s your happy wish. See that? I made a little rhyme, too, all for the sake of my sweet tooth. The measurements in all of these are approximate and to taste, as are any cooking times and temperatures. You know me.
1 large tin of pure pumpkin puree (29 oz), 3 eggs, 1/2 cup dark maple syrup, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1 Tbsp vanilla, a hefty pinch of salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp allspice. Blend together thoroughly, pour into a greased covered pan, and bake or microwave (on high for about 5 minutes) until the eggs have thickened it slightly. Refrigerate.
You will probably not be shocked to know that I amped my pumpkin pudding up with the addition of a couple of scoops of vanilla whey protein powder, because I will be having some for breakfast once or twice before it’s gone.
Apple Pie Sauce
1 each Granny Smith (or other bright-flavored) and Fuji (sweet) apples, peeled and cored and diced, 2 Tbsp clarified browned butter, 3 Tbsp minced candied ginger, and a pinch of salt, all cooked down into a still-chunky bright applesauce with a quarter- to half-cup of gold rum.
Pecan halves, bacon fat, and dark maple syrup. Melt and heat them together until the nuts grow faintly toasty and the fat and syrup caramelize, and you have candied pecans made in hog heaven. Yeah, you can use any sort of favored fat you like, so don’t cry if you’re vegan! Goodness is still within reach!
And in honor of a couple of fabulous Puerto Rican ladies (Natalia and Fabiana) I happen to know and greatly admire, my take on the PR version of eggnog, or Coquito.
[Note: Just to be on the safe side and to take advantage of the slight thickening that heat brings out of eggs, I have made this in custard-fashion, cooking it slightly, but aside from the usual caveats regarding at-risk persons (i.e., the pregnant, the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems) and raw eggs or alcohol, the combination of the two has been scientifically proven to kill, rather than foster, salmonella. Just so’s you know. Salud!]
Coquito Loco Rico
1 cup coconut butter, 54 oz coconut milk, 6 egg yolks, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 Tablespoon vanilla, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, and 1 tsp ground cardamom, all blended together and cooked, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Pour into a container that can be tightly closed (I used a 3 quart pitcher with a tight lid), add a pint of gold rum (I used PR-produced Bacardi), stir, seal, and stash in the depths of the fridge for as long as you can stand waiting The large proportion of alcohol keeps the eggs from spoiling. Serve cold or hot, straight up (high-octane!) or mixed with additional nonalcoholic coquito, eggnog, cream, or milk of any kind, and preferably in good company.
Because you may need the comfort, since this stuff can be so good it’s scary. Happy Halloween, everybody. Even if you don’t care to dress up for it or recognize it as any kind of meaningful event for you, it can be well worth your while to gather some friends and loved ones to celebrate something with a flavor-packed dessert or a rollicking drink.