Trim the Hearth and Set the Table 2018

As we have mentioned before, one of the great joys of Christmas springs from the fact that while it is renewed every year, it nonetheless is renewed precisely because it encapsulates and brings forth the things from of old. It is an annual renaissance of the same Christ born 2000 years ago, and is celebrated in each family by the rebirth of each family’s  traditions and customs.

Everyone looks forward to recapturing the grand things that have made past festivities so memorable. Certainly we might mix in some variation- but everyone is pleased when the special joys that formed past memories are recaptured and come alive in the present!

And so once again, after playing the organ for five separate Christmas Masses, and after receiving the generous help, in their contributions of extraordinary musical talent of my own children and friends, we were able to commence our own family festivities at about 2:00 pm Christmas Day! I suppose the three youngest kids deserve special commendation for the great patience which they exhibited by having to gaze at all the presents under the tree from 7:00 AM to about 3:00 PM. They were terrific. Nonetheless, brunch helped immensely! I returned from the 12:00 PM Mass at the beautiful Immaculate Conception church with my four daughters (3 Sopranos and one Alto), and the first thing I saw was the table disposed and aptly arranged….but for what?

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Now fruit-salad is ideal at any brunch- and certainly a regular feature in our tradition. Every year the fruit seems fresher than I remember. How is this possible?  Persimmons, blackberries, raspberries, pineapple, grapes and strawberries.  IMG_1705

Aside from the fruit-salad for its own sake- I also think it is handy for plumping some of those strawberries in the mimosas!

I suppose one might find a better “champagne,” but I really do find that I enjoy any thing that says “Brut” on it. But why would anyone mix an expensive bottle with orange juice and strawberries?  Nonetheless, if one is buying an inexpensive bottle of Champagne, or Sparkling Wine or Cava, there is always the expedient of wrapping it carefully in a napkin to keep the label discretely out of sight of anyone who has a more discerning taste (or a thicker wallet!)

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One of the traditions we have at brunch is what is affectionately called “Baby Jesus Bun.” It is a delicious bun with a creamy sort of filling. Now of course we know that the early Christians were accused of “Thyestean feasts” by the Romans and that one Athenagoras spent considerable efforts defending Christians from the charge of cannibalism. And so without making light of the seriousness of those charges and with apologies to Athenagoras, I will admit that these Baby Jesus Buns are absolutely scrumptious!

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It’s time for us to obtain a new Italian coffee maker. We love the coffee from these Italian espresso makers- and I still can’t figure out the physics of the thing. The water starts in the bottom and then through the wonders of heat and pressure, it somehow mysteriously is forced up through the finely ground fresh coffee beans. The lid of my coffee maker fell off years ago, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. The coffee does not come spraying out in an upwards direction. The only drawback to this coffee maker is that it only makes two strong cups at a time. (I know, I know- we could use a demitasse, but who really wants to pretend that a there is enough coffee in a demitasse for anyone!?)

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Last Christmas we had “Eggs Blackstone” which I suppose is one of the many variations on Eggs Benedict. Whereas Eggs Blackstone includes poached eggs atop some sourdough bread with tomatoes and bacon, this year we had Eggs Benedict atop a slice of smoked salmon atop Thomas’s famous English Muffins!  My daughter Mary made the Hollandaise Sauce- somehow managing to obtain the ideal creamy texture and flavor!

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In addition to the smoked salmon we included small and large beef sausage patties.

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Stephanie managed to collect an assortment of candles throughout the year. All different sizes and lengths for the various candle-holders.

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My plate- of course a little Cayenne pepper!

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The biggest challenge this year was how to squeeze both a brunch and a dinner in on the same day. After opening presents I took a two hour nap!

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But I awoke as if no time had passed to the smell of Anna’s famous buttery dinner rolls! A sure sign that dinner was imminent.

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This year marked the first time that I can remember for this delicious green dish. An arrangement of Green Beans, Asparagus and Fennel – cooked al dente and topped with a spinkle of olive oil.

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Stephanie’s home-made gravy gathered from the sheer goodness that oozed out of the roast.

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A rich risotto flavored by a magical cremini mushroom concoction!

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At long last – the coup de grace- Beef Wellington!

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Now to be perfectly honest, I have no idea how Stephanie made the bread-y cheesy wrap around the marvelous fatty roast that I obtained (from Costco). It was steaming and cooked to perfection- wonderfully done on the outside but still pink in the center. Satisfaction for everyone’s taste. I think Stephanie had actually chosen a superior and less expensive and leaner roast – but as she was pushing the shopping cart, I was suddenly taken with the idea of substituting a richer fattier cut. Given the overall richness of the meal, I think her instincts were far better than mine (as usual). Nonetheless, what a Wellington!

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Nothing contributes to the sacred aura of the Christmas feast more than candles.

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I forgot to take a photo of the delicious Californian 2016 Pinot Noir from Monterey County. “Aromas of red cherry and bright strawberry followed by flavours of plum and black cherry,” I will take the vintner’s word for it.

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To finish everything off, my daughter baked this star-shaped sweet bread. A sweet dough interlaced with a plum jam of some sort or another. (Special thanks to my son Mark for all the photos!)

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Merry Christmas!

About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in beauty, breakfast, Christmas, Dinner, Feasts, Fine Arts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Trim the Hearth and Set the Table 2018

  1. Maureen Shumay says:

    My dad and I always look forward to the Bi-annual Langley Holiday Brunch & Dinner Blog! (Christmas and Easter edition) Looks like a lovely feast! And those photos would whet anyone’s appetite! 😉

    • marklangley says:

      Thanks Maureen. You probably realize that there are some who think it is a perhaps a little gauche to post one’s dinner in such a flagrant manner. But I figured at least your father would be sympathetic! And I am glad you are too! 🙂

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