Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Links and Champagne-Saffron Scallops!

I'm fascinated to know what your holiday food traditions are.
Stockings that represent us: My daughter has a Pottery Barn ballerina stocking that I have blinged out with crystals, my husband has a Batman stocking, and mine says "All I want for Christmas is Mr. Darcy." 
Here's how it goes down for us: We all go to my parents' lake house, of course (it's the only place big enough for the whole clan and all of our fur-family). Christmas Eve is really our "big deal," as my dad calls it. We spend the day finishing up wrapping presents while my daughter waits for it to get dark. Around lunch time, we have a birthday party for my mother, whose Christmas birthday was often lost in the shuffle (or at least felt that way to a child).

When we were kids, my parents told us that we couldn't open presents until it was too dark to see the back fence. Cue my sister and I plastered to the glass on the back door, waiting for the moment. We always had music and champagne on Christmas Eve.

Now that we're grown and appreciate food beyond the realm of corn dogs and chicken strips, my father makes a fabulous Christmas Eve spread. I really learned to love cooking from my father, who started experimenting with Bon Appetite recipes in the late '80s (and still has the issues with his favorite recipes). Every year, he makes a seafood extravaganza. Giant, spicy boiled shrimp with lemon butter, corn-meal battered fried shrimp, crab cakes, and everyone's favorite, lobster tail and scallops with Champagne-Saffron Sauce. (See the end of this post for the sauce recipe.)

After dinner, my daughter plays Santa, handing out presents, and we all take a turn opening one at a time, oohing and ahhhing over each gift. We put out milk and cookies, and Santa comes to visit my daughter overnight and leaves stockings for everyone. Hurray!! Christmas dinner is often a sort of recap of Thanksgiving favorites we want more of but with a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey and sometimes a bourbon-glazed crown roast instead of ham. I've often wanted to do an Italian or Mexican-inspired Christmas dinner, but I've yet to convince my father of the merit of this plan.

Champagne Saffron Sauce (From a Bon Appetite Magazine--I will find it when I visit the family)
  • Large sea scallops (you decide how many you need--we usually do about 20 for the six-ish people)
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup dry champagne (not sweet)
  • 1/2 t. saffron threads
  • 1 cup whipping cream 
  • fresh lemon juice
  • minced fresh parsley
Melt butter. Add scallops and saute at a high heat to get a good sear on them. Remove the second they're cooked through so they don't get rubbery. Add champagne and saffron to the butter-scallop sauce in the pan, and boil until reduced by 1/2 cup, about seven minutes. Add cream and gently boil until reduced to a sauce-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Return scallops (and chunks of cooked lobster tail, if you like) to the sauce and heat until just warmed through. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Holy cow.

I'd love to hear from some of you! What are your favorite holiday recipes?