Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Solstice, Channukah, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Etc.

Phew! Somehow I managed to get up early enough to clean up the mess my kid left in the kitchen, wash dishes, do 3 loads of laundry and still make the food I planned on taking to my mother's house for dinner: my take on deviled eggs and a batch of sugar cookie dough for my brother.I've been making the same recipe for about 40 years. Why screw around with perfection?

The first time I made my brother a batch of cookie dough for Christmas it was clearly appreciated. That year, he brought the bag o' dough with him and gobbled it up as we drove to my father's mother's house in Vernonia, Oregon. We didn't see a lot of her and she was always "Minnie" to us, never "Grandma."

As I walked through her doorway she shouted "Janet! Honey! Here, have a beer." I was 15.

My Favorite Sugar Cookies

This was originally from The Pillsbury Cookbook: The All-Purpose Companion for Today's Cook. It is maddeningly lacking in bibliographic data but must have been published between the mid- to late 60's (prior to the ISBN era). My copy is so beyond dog-eared that even the Great Duct Tape Repair of 1993 is falling apart.

The trick to sugar cookies is to handle the dough as little as possible and keep it cold while you aren't working it. If it warms up in your hands (and it will) put it back in the frig.

I'm lucky in that I have my fabulous KitchenAid mixer now, but before that for many years prior I would combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter with a pastry blender until mealy. It was a lot of work but the results were fine.

3 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C sugar
1 C butter, room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbs cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, cream and vanilla and stir just until combined.

Gradually add flour mixture until dough pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl. Chill dough for at least an hour before proceeding.

Divide dough in half and roll out into a sheet 3/8" thick. Cut into desired shape with a cookie cutter. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes. Allow to cool about 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet to a cooling rack. Decorate as desired.

Variation: If you're not particularly into rolling out dough an alternative method which has given me good results is to shape the chilled dough into 2 logs approximately 14 inches long and roll the logs in either powdered or granulated sugar. Cover logs with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill again. Cut into roughly 3/8 slices and bake as directed above.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Deviled Eggs alla Giovanna

12 peeled hard boiled eggs
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp wasabi paste (I had planned on using some horseradish but could not find it. Be careful with this stuff, it's HOT!)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp or so fresh ground black pepper
cayenne pepper for dusting
1/4 C chopped pepperoncini
1-2 tsp juice from the jar of pepperoncini, to taste

Cut eggs in half and place yolks in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork until crumbly. Add mayo, dijon, wasabi paste, vinegar, pepperoncini juice and black pepper. Taste for seasonings and adjust as desired.

Spoon yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Dust with cayenne and top each with approximately 1/4 tsp of the chopped pepperoncini. Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 24 pieces.

Tip: to hard boil the eggs, place in single layer in a large sauce pan. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Place a lid on the pan and turn off heat. Allow it to sit on the burner for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until eggs are cool. Peel.

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