Apart from ordering a leg of lamb a week in advance and repeatedly proclaiming there would be oysters on Christmas, the rest of the menu was thrown together the night before the early-morning grocery store trip and was altered right down to the hours before dinner was served.
And as someone known for careful planning (and then complaining when her plan goes afoul), I must say that I'm fairly proud of myself for rolling with the punches. And so, with that, I give you a few highlights from the holiday.
Mom's Christmas Eve Meyer Lemon Tart (with Meyer Lemons fresh from our backyard!):
Mom had a few great Diet-Coke moments, as per usual. My personal favorite was her wheeling four cases of the stuff towards my car in the Ralph's parking lot and then announcing, "You had to buy four to get them at the sale price, so we can just store them in the tip pit until my next visit."
And no bomb:
Oysters on the half shell:
[Bon Appé-tip: I was worried about keeping these guys alive in the refrigerator for two days, but we totally did via placing them in a baking tray face up and covered with a damp paper towel, which we continued to re-wet if we found it dry.]
(sans shank attached, as Whole Foods had no record of my pre-order with shank attached even though I had it all printed out and everything!)
Flowers are pretty:
Nigel Slater's version:
Photo-explanation of why our version is only half a cake:
Verbal explanation: We left our cake to cool on the stovetop, on top of a burner that was on so low we couldn't even see the flame. An hour and a half later, we discovered the error. Whoops!
It was half a carrot cake, by the way:
And a happy New Year!
A carrot cake with a frosting of mascarpone and orange super slightly adapted from Nigel Slater's Tender
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
scant cup of light muscovado sugar
5 oz. of carrots
juice of half a lemon
1 1/4 cups walnuts
9 oz. mascarpone cheese
7 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
grated zest of a medium orange
handful of walnut halves or whole pecans
Set the oven to 350F. Lightly butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line each with a round of parchment paper.
Separate the eggs. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Beat the oil and sugar in a stand mixer until well beaten, then add the egg yolks one by one. Grate the carrots into the mixture, then add the lemon juice. Coarsely chop the walnuts and add them too.
Fold the flour into the mixture with the mixer on low speed. Beat the egg whites until light and stiff, then fold gently into the mixture using a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out).
Divide the mixture between the two prepared cake pans, smooth the top gently, and bake for forty to forty-five minutes. Test with a skewer for doneness. The cakes should be moist but not sticky. Remove from the oven and let rest for a good ten minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans onto a wire cooling rack.
To make the frosting, put the mascarpone, cream cheese, and confectioners' sugar into an electric mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. It should have no lumps. Mix in the orange zest.
When the cake is cool, sandwich the halves together with about a third of the frosting. Use the rest to cover the top and sides of the cake. Cover the top with walnut halves (or pecans!).