Oysters, Lamb, Half a Cake, and a few Photobombs

I keep trying to put this post together with some kind of common theme, some sort of organizing principle, but I think the truth may lie in the lack thereof, which is kind of a nice way of summing up family. We're all connected, but we're as diverse as Christmas dinner, which for many people comes without a firm tradition. Unlike Thanksgiving and its turkey, Christmas dinner has no rules. It can be spaghetti and meatballs or standing rib roast or, well, anything!

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." 

Pre-bomb, post-bomb:

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.]  

Baked oysters with butter, lemon, and parsley:

Ina's version:

Our version:
(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:

Our 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:

Merry Christmas!

And a happy New Year!

A carrot cake with a frosting of mascarpone and orange super slightly adapted from Nigel Slater's Tender
serves 8-10
3 eggs
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!).


Matthew said...

Half-cakes should totally be a thing.

Kara said...

Second comment!! This never happens

Hurray that lemon tart!!!

Amy said...

Nigel's seems to be a 3/4 cake, so whatever. Love the photobombs.

Little Kitchie said...

love this post! your mom's lemon tart is gorgeous, and, hey, the half-cake looks pretty good too!

Andrea said...

Half cakes are a thing at our farmer's market.

You know you've made it when the "tip pit" enters general family parlance.

Ashley Blom said...

Happy New Year! The cake mistake made me laugh! It's awesome that you kept it anyway :)

Terry said...

Happy New Year! Will Mom share the lemon tart recipe? The half cake is really inspired. I probably would have tried to make a one layer cake, or trifle-type thing, but the half cake is so neat.

Amelia Morris said...

HI Terry! The recipe for the meyer lemon tart is in Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food... do you have it?? If not, you should probably consider making the purchase. It's one of my absolute favorites. And so glad you like the half cake! (It was Matt's idea.) :)

Mary Anne said...

So many comments. Mom and I made a meyer lemon tart too! But we made Martha's version. Also, I can't believe yer Mom just dropped tip pit like that! Alsoooo, that is HILARIOUS about the cake--- who's genius idea was it to make it into a half cake? Love it! That's probably enough cake anyway! Finally, NICE JHU SWEATSHIRT, YA BIG NERD!!!!

Tiffany said...

I'm glad no one was injured in the half-cake debacle.

Rachel said...

First of all, yay for half cake! Like an early new year slim down resolution... hopefully there was enough to go around. mmm carrot.... secondly, grrr whole foods. i ordered a turkey from them for t-giving and they butchered my last name (not hard to do) - called us the "guezelhosers". of course, if you say it out loud, it's funny. but i didn't even want to give them my name to pick up the damn thing. finally, still intrigued by the meyer lemons - turns out we have a tree in our new backyard. did the piney/thymey flavor come through in the tart?? (I'm now chuckling at Mary Anne's post as I was going to ask how you'd scored a sweet red hop sweatshirt.)

Amelia Morris said...

Awww, man, the guezelhosers?!! geez.

OK, as for the tart, to me, it really just tasted lemony and sweet and delicious. You could start with making lemon curd and see if you like the taste of that?

And as for the sweatshirt, it's crazy to me that I bought it almost 10 years ago. Seriously, it's been 10 years!! That is insane.

p.s. JHU forever!! :)