Christmas Gingerbread

Forget gift giving. For me, enjoying my favorite holiday foods the essential part of a Merry Christmas. Gravlax, Swedish meatballs and a big English breakfast on Christmas morning are all long-standing traditions in my home and when I eat them I am reconnected with holidays past.

Every Christmas I make my favorite gingerbread cake, which is based on a recipe from Claudia Fleming when I worked for her at Gramercy Tavern in the nineties. This gingerbread uses stout and fresh ginger, which along with the more traditional molasses and dried ginger, gives this cake an intense, bright flavor. We often eat it for dessert on Christmas Day, but this cake stays fresh for several weeks, so I’m usually enjoying it happily (for dessert, snack even breakfast) through the New Year.

Stout Gingerbread

2 -3 tablespoons melted butter for greasing the pan

2 cups stout

2 cups unsulphured molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1½ cups butter, melted and cooled

4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

¼ cup freshly grated ginger

  1. Heat oven to 325F. Butter a 10-12 cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a large saucepot, combine the stout and molasses and cring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to bubble-up. Let the pan rest off the heat until the bubbles are gone and the liquid is cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugars and melted butter. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and dry spices.
  4. Mix the cooled molasses mixture with the egg mixture. Slowly add these blended liquids to the flour mixture. Stir in the fresh ginger.
  5. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 75 minutes, or until the top begins to crack and spring back when gently touched with your finger. Cool completely before unmolding from the pan.

Merry Christmas!

Swedish Meatballs

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When I was young, Christmastime meant Nordic fare. My mom’s family is Scandinavian and Pickled Herring, Gravlax and Köttabullar–Swedish Meatballs– were all part of our holiday celebrations. This year, for New Year’s Eve, I’ve decided to make Swedish Meatballs. Served alongside mashed potatoes, lingonberry sauce and
pickled cucumber salad, everytime I have them, they remind me of my childhood.
The recipe I make is a hybrid of my mom’s and Marcus Samuelsson’s–he likes to
put a splash of pickle juice from the cucumbers into the sauce, which is a great
way to cut the sweetness of the lingonberries and the richness of the creme
fraiche in the sauce.

Swedish Meatballs

½ cup dry bread crumbs mixed with ¼ cup milk
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
¾ pound ground pork
¾ pound ground beef
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
¼ cup lingonberry preserves
2 tablespoons pickle juice or 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1.   Combine the bread crumbs with the milk in a bowl. Stir until the bread crumbs are
moistened. Set aside.
2.    Heat  2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the onion and cook until the onions are limp and translucent, about 5 minutes. Cool.
3.    Combine the onions with the ground pork, ground beef, honey and egg in a large bowl. Add the salt and pepper and mix by hand until blended. Add the breadcrumb-milk mixture and mix well. Shape the mixture into golf ball size meatballs.
4.    Add the remaining canola oil to the sauté pan. Add the meatballs is batches and cook, turning frequently until brown on all sides and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and prepare the sauce.
5.    Add the stock to the pan and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crème fraiche and continue to reduce until the sauce is a nappe consistency. Return the meatballs to the pan and warm.
6.    Serve the meatballs with mashed potatoes, more lingonberry preserves and cucumber salad.

Pickled Cucumber Salad

1 large cucumber

1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

1-1/2 cups water

½ cup white wine vinegar

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh dill (optional)

1.            Thinly slice the cucumber. Toss the cucumber slices with ½ tablespoon of the kosher salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.

2.            Combine the remaining kosher salt, water, vinegar, sugar and dill in a saucepan. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

3.            Rinse the cucumbers and drain all extra water. Pour the warm pickling liquid over the cucumber. Cool and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving.