Eating Outside of the Box – by Diane Phillips

Read Diane Phillips’ column in the December 20, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

As fall turns into winter and the crisp, bright days turn cold and grow shorter, many people find comfort and joy in the holidays by embracing traditions in their celebrations as well as in the food they share with their families.  I’m inclined to want to do the exact opposite.  For some reason, I think of this season as a time to break away from tradition and to try new things.  Not everyone is comfortable with this line of thinking, as I’m finding out, when I try to introduce such an idea to my family, particularly in the area of holiday meals.

In past years, I’ve broached the topic of changing up the holiday feast but the idea hasn’t really caught on.  I’m thinking that part of this lack of enthusiasm for my suggestions might have to do with the fact that I don’t host the occasion limiting my role to being a guest at the table rather than an active participant in the meal preparation.  When family members discuss details of the get-together, I merely make suggestions about trying something new for the main dish or perhaps just swapping out the usual side dishes for something new and different.  These ideas have fallen flat.  I think part of the reason has been that I simply propose the idea and don’t provide concrete options from which people can choose.  I decided that this year will be different.  I have access to a plethora of meal ideas in the cookbooks right here at the library.

Once I began browsing the collection, I realized that I really needed to narrow down my options because we have so many good books with great meal ideas that there was no way I was going to be able to make up my mind and quite frankly, I didn’t have much time.  Christmas is coming and if I’m going to get some changes made to this menu, I have to act fast and maybe only offer up a few suggestions.  My thought process here is that if I produce too many recipes, my family members might get overwhelmed and revert back to the old standbys because it’ll be too hard to make a decision.  I found a few recipes that really piqued my interest for a few reasons.

My family concentrates on gathering for dinner.  Why dinner?  Why not brunch?  Who doesn’t love brunch?  I’m not saying we can’t have dinner; let’s have brunch as well, either on Christmas morning or the day after.  Why not?  What’s stopping us?  Here were a few thoughts on brunch items that looked really good that I can’t wait to try:

In the book, “Handheld Pies: Dozens of pint-size sweets & savories,” by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton, there’s a recipe for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Pie that are described by the author as “…hot, eggy, salty pillows of early-morning deliciousness.”  That’s such a great description that it really makes me want to try this out.  Another tempting creation is called Volcanoes from the cookbook entitled, “Momofuku Milk Bar,” by Christina Tosi.  Ms. Tosi describes the inspiration for her version of this breakfast sandwich as “an explosion of potato, lardons, and cheese like no other” and decided to make a version for her bakery.  The author’s version is a dough filled with caramelized onions, scalloped potatoes and Gruyère cheese.  This is so easy to make and very different from a usual breakfast of eggs and toast, pancakes or cereal.  What a great way to make a holiday start in a special way.

While on the subject of pancakes, why not make them from scratch if you’re going to spice up that special breakfast?  In the “Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook: Breakfast, brunch & beyond from New York’s favorite neighborhood restaurant,” by Dede Lahman and Neil Kleinberg, the authors include their recipe for pancakes, for which their restaurant is famous.  Folding in egg whites is their secret to creating their light and fluffy pancakes.  And, rather than using pats of butter and then pouring on maple syrup, they recommend topping pancakes or even French toast with their maple butter, which is simple enough to make.  Simply warm the maple syrup and then whisk in cubes of cold butter until it’s incorporated.

Of course, there are many more options out there and if anyone is looking to shake things up for their holiday (or even everyday) meals.  Come into the library to browse our collection of cookbooks or look at our online catalog to find books with interesting recipes to share with your friends and family.

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