Christmas was a smashing success this year at the Iaciofano house. We hosted Christmas Eve for the first time in over a decade, and a good time was definitely had by all. John even succeeded in outdoing all his prior present wrapping accomplishments by wrapping The Box’s present in a blanket.
What follows are the highlights from Christmas Even and Christmas Day, complete with two winning recipes: Pasta with Pink Clam Sauce and Fruit and Nut Trifle. Hold onto your Christmas socks, ‘cuz here we go:
My Christmas Eve food duties involved procuring a cheese plate. I went straight to Murray’s Cheese and purchased the following (under the direction of the helpful cheesemonger that was waiting on me): a Stilton, a wheel of Brunet, and a Prodda Classico. I threw in some honey, some fig preserve and an arrangement of crackers. The Brunet and the fig preserve was fantastic together, and I also really liked putting honey on the Stilton.
This is the Pasta with Pink Clam Sauce. The recipe for this follows at the end of the post.
Marmo and I thought our Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme were a bit intense…
…But some of our guests really enjoyed them!
The Fruit and Nut Trifle was the outstanding dinner of the evening. I kept coming back for more. And more…
We ate roughly 8,534 cookies.
The Box washed his cookies down with Diet Orange Crush. Ick.
We drank a lot of gin. Well, Aunt Emily and I did, anyway. Aunt Emily also exclaimed (very loudly) that the martini The Box made for her was just no good at all.
We roasted chestnuts and I took a glamor shot of one of them.
Marmo’s manicotti was light and airy as usual.
And the Filet with Mustard and Peppercorns was outta sight. The Box had suggested that we throw the filet on the grill and slather it in BBQ sauce. We were all categorically horrified by this. Marmo turned to me and said, shaking her head, “He thinks he has good taste…”
However! The Box’s suggestion was followed by Aunt Emily’s culinary advice for the evening, which she directed at me (pointing), “Elana, you can put any sauce on anything you want.” Well, then. I have to rethink everything now.
Even Toby got his own dish of filet with some Cauliflower Grantinee mixed in. He was overjoyed.
We washed it all down with a digestif, espresso and yet more cookies. And also a viewing of Back to the Future (1.21 jigga watts!!)
Santa didn’t forget about his note, either. And from the looks of it, Rudolph was drunk. Maybe he had some of my gin?
Onto the recipes. The Pasta with Pink Clam Sauce is not holiday specific. In fact, I think you can make this for any occasion, and at any time of year. Here’s how it goes:
What You Need:
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic
3 cans plum tomatoes, drained and chopped/
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh oregano
3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 1/4 cups clam juice (from the drained, canned clams)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (we actually used half and half and it worked just as well)
3 six ounce cans of chopped clams (we like the Lamonico brand), drained
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
What To Do:
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until soft and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Then add in the wine. Reduce the wine by half and add the oregano, 1/2 the parsley and the clam juice.
Add the cream and let the sauce simmer slowly, whisking together while it cooks. You will see oil come to the surface during this simmering process, but as the sauce reduces it will all come together. Add the drained clams and the salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon some sauce over cooked pasta and serve. No cheese, please – it doens’t need it!
Fruit and Nut Trifle
What You Need:
1 c of almonds chopped
2 t water
4 t sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 c dried apricots and cranberries chopped
2 t butter
2 pears cored and diced
mandarian orange segments – small can
1 Tbsp rum
4 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup confection sugar
1 cup orange juice
raspberries for decoration
sponge cake – see below for recipe
What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl toss the nuts with cinamon then water and sugar and then spread on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes and toast for about 7 minutes.
Chop dried fruit and cover with hot water and a little rum and let set for 10 minutes. Drain the fruit and add to the nuts. Toss.
In a saute pan heat the butter and add a little sugar. Add the diced pears and saute and then add the fruits and nuts.
In a bowl mix the heavy cream with the confectioners sugar vanilla and rum. Mix until cream is whipped to soft peaks.
Brush the cake with the orange juice to make it a little moist.
In a trifle bowl first add some whipped cream and then place the sponge cake on top to cover the cream. Layer with the fruit/nut mixture and then add a little cream. Follow with the cake and continue to build the trifle. Finish with the whipped cream. For a festive look top with fresh raspberries. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
What You Need:
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup cugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
orange juice for brushing (optional)
What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large square pan (13″x18″) and line with parchment paper.
Put the eggs into a mixer (Kitchenaid or handheld). Slowly add the sugar to the eggs, beating until they are twice the volume from when they started and a pale lemon color.
Slowly add the flour to the above ingredients and also the lemon zest.
Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes.
After it’s done, you can brush the cake with some orange juice, using a pastry brush. This makes it nice and juicy, and adds a complementing flavor for the fruit and nuts in the trifle.
Try not to eat it all. Or eat it all. Whichever.