Saturday 24 December 2011

And so, this is Christmas...

The tree is dressed, and ready. The fridge is groaning (foie gras, curing in its salt; duck, boned and stuffed with lemon-butter and sage; bowls of mincemeat, fish stock, and sausagemeat prepped for rolls; venison pavés; sides of smoked salmon; fillets of sole...); the senior four-footed, as a Christmas treat to all, has just had a bath, and is looking disconsolately fluffy and smells wonderfully of shampoo; the house is filled with the heady aroma of sauce veneur simmering on the stove, along with the dulcet tones of Brenda Lee trilling 'Frosty the Snowman' (although I can see the post-modern ironic humour of that wearing thin rather quickly). Bread dough is rising in the kitchen, and enough puff and shortcrust pastry has been made to supply an army with sausage rolls and mince pies, in between actually eating.

The Belfortes are about to descend on us en masse, and after the Brancolis arrive tomorrow morning, we can embark on all the festivity stuff. This year the tree has been banished to the barn, with the idea that we rev up the wood stove and keep hypothermia at bay over present-giving with a combination of mulled wine and warm pastries. Fortunately, the forecast is for the day to be (wintry) warm and we might just about last the course before somebody remembers that it's the middle of winter, and we're all about to catch our death.

Then, indoors again for lunch (tomato and pepper tarts; artichoke frittata; smoked salmon; salad; and an array of glorious french cheese, promised by the Belfortes), after which we're sending them all off on a scavenger hunt for the afternoon. They don't yet know this, which could mean we risk a minor rebellion - but in the absence of the Queen's Speech, we have to find something for them to do in the afternoon (and, more importantly, get them out of our hair, while we get on with preparing dinner, which is after all the main event of the day). And then.....dinner: devils on horseback (by popular request) before we sit to Sole Normande, followed by Venison (with sauce veneur), and finish with Grand Marnier soufflés. The Brancolis are supplying due and tre bicchieri bottles (Avvoltorre) to go with the venison, so we can indulge in a vertical tasting as we go. Not the last vertical tasting of the holiday, though, as, during dinner on Boxing Day,  we're planning to compare salt-cured foie gras with the poached variety.

By the 27th, they'll all have gone, the cupboards will be looking sadly empty, and we can allow ourselves to subside into midwinter lethargy. And the senior four-footed will be well on the way to recovering that eau de 'spaniel left out in the rain'  aroma that he particularly favours.

Tonight's dinner:

Mussel Risotto

Duck, boned and roast, with lemon-butter and Sage pushed under the skin; wild mushrooms; diced potatoes fried in goose fat

Aosta apple and orange tart.