Tuesday, December 26, 2006


In this season of holiday hospitality and communal feasting, I came across a line by Elizabeth David that struck me as refreshingly egoistic -- in Is There a Nutmeg in the House? she writes: "If I had my way -- and I shan't -- my Christmas Day eating and drinking would consist of an omelette and cold ham and a nice bottle of wine at lunch time, and a smoked salmon sandwich with a glass of Champagne on a tray in the evening."

I found this quite lovely and tried to model our Christmas to it, at least in spirit. Away from my husband's family in France and the attending marathons of shopping, cooking and six hour meals, this year we were three and could do exactly as we pleased. In the morning we watched our daughter tear open presents while nibbling on spice cookies with hot cider. We spent the afternoon at the beach (this is southern California) and then came home to prepare a simple meal: I sliced honey glazed ham while my husband whipped up a divine puree de pommes de terre, so velvety smooth that its more suited to spooning out of bowls. For our daughter we made her favorite vegetable -- French green beans with shallots. We opened a bottle of Gewurztraminer from Alsace, a surprisingly nice pairing with the sweet ham. Dessert was a small plum pudding accompanied by hard sauce.

Puree de pommes de terre

2 pounds of baking potatoes, such as Idaho Russets
1 cup of whole milk, heated
16 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled
sea salt to taste

-Peel the potatoes and place in a large pot, cover with water and add salt, enough to taste.
-When the potatoes are soft, drain the water and begin stirring with an immersion blender, adding the chilled butter one tablespoon at a time. Add the hot milk in a thin stream and continue stirring until the texture becomes silken and satiny.


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