I recently shared with my readers that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, but my favorite season is unquestionably the Christmas season. Thanksgiving has a minimal period of anticipation, mostly by those who actually are cooking the meal, and is pretty much relegated to the big turkey dinner event and maybe a couple days following of leftovers. I always try to do as much as possible to enhance turkey weekend by turning the dining room into my own virtual ‘pumpkin patch’ displaying pumpkins, gourds, and turning leaves.
In the Midwest I was surrounded by all the visuals but in California you have work a little harder at it. Now, I don’t want to go all Martha Steward here, but I think more people should embrace this approach… I mean, can you pilgrims buy a few freaking gourds? Maybe I should have given you a ‘soapbox alert’ here but as you can see I’m big on visuals and know how important they are in creating a richer experience through an enhanced ambience.
Anyway, Thanksgiving is still a distant second to Christmas. As any of you who have recently visited your local JFAT already know, being big on visuals isn’t forgotten during the holidays. I’ve always been big on decorating the restaurants so our Guests really get the full effect of the season when they come to celebrate with us. I love watching the reaction to people when they walk into the restaurants and view the décor for the first time. I can tell you from all my years of experience in the business, all things considered equal, diners are going to opt to have their holiday lunches and dinners in a place that looks and feels like Christmas so the time and money spent on this also becomes a wise business decision. My friend and former employer Hans Prager’s Ritz in Fashion Island was always beautifully decorated at Christmas and was a mecca for those looking to celebrate over roast goose with lingonberry sauce… it’s sorely missed.
I almost always opt for preparing a traditional prime rib on Christmas Day with many of the same side dishes that I didn’t get enough of at Thanksgiving, including creamed spinach and creamed corn and a recent addition… thyme-pumpkin rolls. Many hosts are so focused on dinner that they forget all about preparing something special for breakfast Christmas morning… can cold Fruit Loops or scrambled egg whites ever be considered a type of Christmas morning celebration?? My Mom always made sure we had something special for Christmas morning and it was always the same thing. It was an unbelievably rich and yeasty turnover filled with lots of almond paste made into the shape of a large wreath drizzled with green frosting and maraschino cherry garnishes… with 6 kids in the family there was never anything left! But this was something that took quite a bit of effort the night before, proofed overnight, and then baked off fresh in the morning.
I don’t know a lot of people who will take the time to do this now days so I’m going to give you a recipe for my favorite coffeecake. It’s very simple, can be made the night or day before and, nuked briefly in the microwave before serving, you’ve got yourself a real Christmas morning treat!
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our JFAT staff, Guests, & vendors a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Recipe – Brown Butter, Pecan & Sour Cream Coffeecake
You can make this in one large pan or as individuals in a muffin tin
(can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen)
» 4 TBS Butter, cut into chunks
» 1 cup Sugar
» ½ cup Flour (can be cut 50/50 with cornmeal if desired)
» 1-½ tsp. Vietnamese cinnamon, ground
» ½ tsp Salt
» 1-½ cups Pecans, coarsely chopped
Place butter in sauce pan and cook, swirling, over medium heat until browned and fragrant. Immediately pour into small bowl and allow to cool 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place all remaining ingredients in bowl and stir well. Pour melted butter over dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until completely incorporated into knobby chunks. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
First Layer in Buttered & Floured Pan
» ¼ cup Butter, room temp
» 2 cups Flour
» 1-½ tsp. Baking Powder
» ¼ tsp. Baking Soda
» ½ tsp. Salt
» 3 each Eggs
» 2 TBS Water
» 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
» 1 cup Sugar
» 1 cup Sour Cream
Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. Then sprinkle with flour and turn around to coat. Shake off all excess flour. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, water and vanilla until well combined- set aside. With paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Add the sour cream in two additions, beating well after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl each time. Add one third of the dry ingredients and half the liquid ingredients, mix just until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl and bottom if necessary. Add half the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining liquid ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape down and add the remaining dry ingredients mixing until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. Spoon slightly over half of the batter into pan.
Red Line Speed Whipping
Evenly sprinkle 1 cup of streusel over each pan to evenly cover the batter. Top the batter with 1-1/2 cup of streusel for each pan covering the entire top evenly so no batter shows. Add more streusel if necessary. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 70 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on baking rack 30 minutes before serving. Note: Cover with foil if nuts begin to darken too much.
Let it Snow…