In the days running up to Christmas, my mother would traditionally take masking tape and affix dire “Do Not Eat!!” warnings to all of the food she had prepped and packed into the refrigerator. Then, she would express exasperation when my father and I would complain that we were starving. What were we talking about? She had been cooking for days!
Now that I find myself in my mother’s shoes, I can completely empathize. There is perhaps nothing more vexing than being tired and hungry and elbow deep in fancy food preparations, and realizing you’re at a complete loss as far as how to subsist until the festivities begin (unless you just keep sneaking cookies out of the freezer!). With that in mind, I actually planned (just a little!) this year and made up some quick items that I knew would reheat well and fuel me throughout the week while I took care of other business. Here are a few ideas.
How are you feeding your house before the holiday?
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Adapted for health and speed from this stellar Balthazar Cream of Mushroom Soup recipe. The full fat/fresh herb version is even tastier, as you might imagine, but I was going for convenience as much as gourmet points this round.
.5 ounces dried mushrooms
3-4 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. Herbs de Provence, crushed
1 pound mixed mushrooms, cleaned and roughly sliced (I used a 50/50 mix of shitake and portobello from my farmers market stand)
3 cups stock
1/2-1 cup milk
1 T unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the dried mushrooms in a cup of warm water to reconstitute.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the onion, garlic, and dried herbs until softened. Raise the heat and add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally as they give off their juices. After about 10 minutes, add the stock, the dried mushrooms, and their soaking liquid (strain liquid through a coffee filter to remove sediment if needed). Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, then add milk, butter, salt, and pepper to taste, and puree until smooth.
Adjust seasonings and thin with additional milk or broth as needed.
Baked Brussels Sprouts in Balsamic Vinegar
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Clean and halve the Brussels sprouts and place them in a casserole dish (for a softer, more steamed version) or on a roasting pan (for a crisper, more caramelized version). Sprinkle generously with Balsamic vinegar and a few glugs of good olive oil, plus salt and pepper to your taste. Toss well to coat (and cover, if using a casserole) and place in the oven. Re-toss every 15 minutes or so to re-coat vegetables with dressing and to assess doneness. Mine take about 40 minutes in the casserole, less if using a the roasting pan (you want to achieve caramelized sprouts, not burnt little cabbages, but even a pretty toasted Brussels sprout is tasty!).
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
Honestly, I wasn’t sure this would work, but I had seen white potatoes roasted in this fashion and they were so pretty that I really wanted to try them out. In the interest of time, I simply peeled and sliced the sweet potatoes, coated them with olive oil, and sprinkled each with salt and some of the Vindaloo seasoning that I had on hand. They went into the oven with the sprouts outlined above at 425°F for about 45 minutes. They came out tasty but a little dry. Next time, I think I’ll make a juicy stuffing like this one.