Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!!
What’s cooking? Paris Breakfast

I’m back! Please excuse the delay, but the holiday frenzy was particularly acute this year, what with various relatives and friends coming and going, and the attendant shopping, meal planning, and, of course, the cooking.

It was our first year in the new house, so putting up Christmas decorations was a whole new experience. After 22 years in our New Jersey home, the ornaments all knew their places so well I barely had to open the storage boxes before they’d jump out into position on the mantle or the kitchen table or wherever. Here in Austin, the mantle is totally different and we don’t even have a kitchen table. So a lot of pondering accompanied the process. To say nothing of the Tree Incident.

Every year for the past 22, my husband and I have driven to the same spot in a town near our NJ home where a slightly strange and quirky family sells the best Christmas trees you could ask for. Big, bushy Douglas firs that infuse the house with a sweet, foresty smell. The trees we picked were always so big we’d have to tie them onto the top of the car. When our sons were still at home, they’d help us drag it into the house and set it up. But in Texas – and even in the last couple of years in NJ – the sons weren’t around to help, and the struggle for the two of us to get the tree into the house, while hilarious, was a pain in the butt. So now that we’re in Texas, we thought maybe we’d go for an artificial tree.

WHAT???!!! AN ARTIFICIAL TREE??? I know, it goes against everything my mother taught me. But I checked around with my friends here in Texas, and almost all of them have artificial trees. “So much easier to put up,” and “no needles dropping on the floor,” and “the lights are already on it,” was what we heard from those folks. That part about the lights really hit home, as I have long been the sole person in my family with the patience to weave the lights among the branches. For a heritage check, I called my cousin, Helen, to see what she thought.

“Not in my house,” said Helen. “But I’m sure it’s okay in yours.” Hmmm...

So off we went to check out the artifiicial trees. But by that time in the season, the only ones left looked way too much like the pitiful tree in Charlie Brown’s Christmas.

“Maybe not this year,” we said to each other. Our last fake tree stop had been Lowe’s, and we noticed that outside they were selling real trees. Eureka! A perfectly shaped Doug fir, small enough to fit in the car, was on sale for $13 – imagine! – so we bought it, took it home, decorated it, and sat back to admire our good fortune.

A week later, in spite of almost daily waterings, our perfect tree was so dry I was afraid to turn on the lights. And we still had four days to go before Christmas. We all knew what that meant.

It was a sad moment when we realized we had to take it down. But as with many such moments, once you realize what must be done, there’s a determination that sets in, so we gritted our teeth, undecorated the little tree (which was looking sadder by the minute), and headed out for another. We found a balsam that didn’t much smell but seemed a good deal fresher, and had it up and decorated by the following night. Maybe next year for the artificial tree.

* * *

One of my favorite meals over the holidays is breakfast, and one of my sons’ favorite holiday breakfasts is a remarkably easy egg dish called Paris Breakfast. I found it in 1984, in a cookbook issue of my hometown local newspaper.

Paris Breakfast (Serves 2)

2 Tbl unsalted butter
2 eggs
½ c milk (at room temperature)
1 Tbl Grand Marnier (or Cointreau or any other orange-flavored liqueur)
2 Tbl sugar
Juice of one lemon (2-3 Tbl, depending on your preference)
½ c all-purpose flour
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 400º. Place the butter in a 10-inch glass pie plate in oven to heat. When it has melted, brush the butter over the sides and bottom of the plate, and return it to the oven. Put eggs, milk, orange liqueur, sugar and lemon juice into a blender and blend briefly. Add flour and blend again until frothy. Scrape down the sides and blend again while you remove the pie plate from the oven. Pour the mixture into the plate and bake 15 mins. Dust the finished product with confectioner’s sugar, and serve with crisp bacon and your favorite jam.

Kitchen Goddess Tip: Have a happy and healthy new year, everyone!

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