Christmas has its own special magic. You have the brightly lit twinkling tree and you share special moments with special people. One day perhaps I will write a story titled ‘A Notley Road Christmas’ as it was the most wonderful time of the year with some of the most lasting memories of my childhood. My family knows what I am talking about.
It’s that time of the year to prepare special time-honored traditional recipes from your past. Good meals can only emphasize all the festive moments of the season. This may be a time when you entertain in your home for a holiday party or the family gathering. Whatever the reason, enjoy it all!
Lobsters are always on my Christmas Eve dinner menu. However, I try to switch up the Christmas day dinner menu every year. No longer a turkey or ham; not that there’s anything wrong with that but I would prepare them differently than other times of the year. In fact, grilled turkey over a charcoal fire is sublime. In any case, this year I will serve either crown roast of pork or my parsley crusted rack of lamb. The lamb is an epicurean gem and will be featured in the meat section of my future cookbook! The recipe originally emerged (and has been adapted with time) in Cooks to the Rescue; a cookbook which I co-authored/edited. It is an elegant alternative to leg of lamb with rosemary.
ALI’S PARSLEY CRUSTED RACK OF LAMB
- 2 rack of lamb, Frenched
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
- 1-1/2 cups loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 T. butter, melted
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- Place both racks of lamb in a roasting pan, fat side up. Rub the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast at 450 degrees for ten minutes.
- Place parsley, garlic and butter in food processor and process until finely minced.
- Add bread crumbs and combine.
- Take lamb out of the oven and quickly press parsley mixture on top of the meat.
- Return lamb to the oven and roast an additional 15 minutes or until the parsley crust has lightly browned.
- Let rest a few minutes covered in foil.
- Cut racks into chops and serve warm.
With the lamb I serve a potato gratin, shaved Brussel sprouts with bacon and a fall salad.
The holidays are my excuse for overindulging in sweets. Southern Living magazine creates some beautiful holiday themed masterpieces. So many of them use fondant which is not my friend but you can learn to work with it ~ it just takes some practice. My first attempt was during a cake decorating class with Steve Konopelski of Turnbridge Point. I must say he was quite patient! You can buy fondant already prepared and sometimes in the primary colors. I’ll just stick with what I am best at ~ home-made cakes with butter cream frosting or ganache.
My sister Tricia gave me the following recipe. When our parents were alive, all of my siblings got together for a week in the summer in Pawley’s Island, SC where my parents had retired. Trish always prepared this cake. It is quite dense so I would at the most prepare a ganache to drizzle over the top and sides or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.* We ate it morning, noon and night ~thanks T!
Cold Oven Pound Cake
- 2-1/2 sticks butter, softened
- 3 c. sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 c. whole milk
- Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs one at a time.
- Add vanilla and salt.
- Add flour and baking powder; mix well.
- Slowly add milk; beat for 2 minutes until batter is well blended and creamy.
- Pour mixture into a greased and floured tube pan and PLACE INTO A COLD OVEN!
- Then turn the oven on to 325 degrees and bake 1-1/2 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN UNTIL THE BAKING TIME IS UP!
- Remove cake from oven and let stand in the tube pan for 5 minutes before turning it out.
*Be sure to decorate the cake plate for whatever holiday you may be celebrating.
The entire month of December I like to bake cookies. My cookies are not unique and the recipes are abundant but you can create a beautiful display on a pretty platter as a quick option for a dessert plate or if a friend stops by for a cup of coffee. The list of confections will always include my lemon or lime bars, peanut butter cookies with a chocolate ‘kiss’, chocolate chip cookies ~ some partially dipped in melted chocolate, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and my toffee bars. I include the recipe for the toffee bars as they are good for a homemade gift and because one batch makes so many there are a lot to share. You must cut them into small squares as they are sinfully rich; even more so than fudge. Because this treat is also an epicurean gem, I wrap them in special cookie boxes with my logo.
ALI’S TOFFEE BARS
- 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1-1/2 sticks butter, sliced
- 1 egg
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped fine
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 10 ounces toffee candy bits
- In a large bowl, combine flour and brown sugar.
- Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
- Add slightly beaten egg; mix well.
- Stir in 1-1/2 cups chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Press 3/4 cup of crumb mixture into a greased 9×13 pan.
- Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Remove from oven; pour condensed milk evenly over the crust; top with 1-1/2 cups to toffee bits.
- Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture and chocolate chips over the top.
- Bake 25-30 minutes.
- Sprinkle with remaining toffee bits. Cool completely then cut into desired bar size.
Bon appétit and Happy Holidays!