The missus and I were around for the holiday, so like most holidays for us, we made it about the food.
On Christmas Eve we ventured with a couple of friends out to Flushing for some authentic Chinese food. The Golden Shopping Mall will be my go-to place for out-of-town visitors now.
It was a cramped basement full of food stalls and crowded with people. X’ian’s Famous Snacks was our destination. I was so excited by the food we ordered — a ground lamb sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich, and two hand-pulled noodle dishes (one with chunks of gluten and one with chunks of lamb, both spicy and delicious) — that I forgot to take photos. I did, however, get photos of some of the other options from the menu.
And after all the meat and starch, we opted to finish things off with a “tiger salad.” We could identify cucumber, cilantro, and jalapenos. Delicious and fresh.
From there we went to a dumpling place. They were quite good, but we were so blown away by the thrill of the Golden Shopping Mall, the dumplings just couldn’t compete.
I’ve lived in Sunnyside for almost 11 years. I can’t believe I’ve never gone out to Flushing for Chinese food before. It’s one stop beyond the Mets stadium, for crying out loud. To the three New York readers — and New York visitors — wait no longer to have the Flushing Chinese food experience. And invite me and the missus to join you.
After tearing open our presents and talking to our families, we began cooking. And by “we” I really mean the missus. I helped with the occasional sous chef work, but the missus planned the menu and took care of business. When I say that we had duck, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and carrots, it doesn’t sound all that thrilling. But naturally, the documentation and details should help impress you more. Especially because the missus made it all! She made it all!
To make the duck, the missus scored the skin/fat side of the duck breasts, rubbed them with salt and pepper (and maybe a touch of star anise), and laid them fat-side down on a cold pan. Turn up the heat and fry them for three minutes on each side, then pop them in the oven for ten minutes. They came out perfectly.
For the brussels sprouts, she began with bacon (bacon!), chestnuts, and fresh sage, and let all that stew for a while. Then she dropped in the sprouts and cooked those in the mixture. Outstanding!
For the butternut squash, she rubbed those with “sweet” spices (all-spice, nutmeg, and the like) along with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and dropped a whole star anise where the seeds had been. I don’t love licorice, but the star anise infused the whole squash with a VERY subtle licorice flavor that was actually quite nice. The subtlety of it was key. Here they are, pre-roasting.
The carrots were done inside a “bag.” While roasting, they steam inside the bag with a juice of a clementine, fresh rosemary, some honey, and butter. Delicious!
I didn’t do the most beautiful job of plating the food, but here’s how it all looked before I snarfed it down.
And here’s how it looked less than twenty minutes later.
It was the best Christmas meal ever. The missus was like a wizard in the kitchen.
Boxing Day (a.k.a. December 26)
In the UK, Boxing Day is the day that rich people would box up their leftovers and give them to the servants, the day after Christmas being the only day off the servants got. So it’s a national holiday. The US has never quite had the same servant culture, so we don’t celebrate Boxing Day. Still, we invited the friends who didn’t leave town to come on over (during the snowstorm) and bring us their leftovers to serve.
Also, I made cullen skink. Skink is Scots for soup. Cullen is the town from which it comes. It’s smoked haddock soup with potatoes, onion, and dairy products. It’s delicious, and our local Irish butcher, the venerable Butcher Block, carries smoked haddock from time-to-time. I love this soup, especially when it’s cold, so I try to make it at least once a year. Plus, the leftovers are really handy for stinking up your place of work!
I hope all seven of my readers had a delicious holiday weekend.
Hey, and you know what? Happy New Year, too! Thanks for reading B&E in 2010. I appreciate it tremendously.