K so back to Christmas. I know…I know! Everyone was doing Christmas posts starting from like…November 1, and even before that (all to get the Christmassy pins into Pinterest’s algorithm in time to reap the benefits of the no-doubt frantic holiday pinning frenzy), and then even after that, to do the Christmas wrap up. So sue me, I’m two months late, but that means this will be a new and exciting topic, yes? All part of my plan to keep my posts from stagnating in a sea of well-written Christmas cheer…
Anyway, this past holiday season I made ALL THE THINGS. The holidays are the best time, because aside from family and friends and all that wonderful stuff, I finally have time to cook pretty much anything I want in the kitchen. All the unhealthy things. All the time consuming things. All the three-course-meal things. You get the point.
Of course, there are some non-negotiables. One of my brothers has an inexplicable taste for sugar cookies, so the day before he comes you will always find me in the kitchen cursing at the little snowman shapes when I can’t get the dough out. My other brother is a little trickier to figure out, but I’ll nail it down one of these years. My dad…well, my dad swings between the latest food craze (yes, I spent a long time making “bone broth”, otherwise known as stock, when it turns out he in fact does not enjoy stock), and most everything else, so he’s (almost) always game to try both old and new things. My momma is just excited that someone else is going to worry about all the cooking! In the last few years, we’ve started this great tradition in my family of having a big Christmas brunch with French toast bread pudding and caviar and blinis (by “we started”, I mean “I enforced”). It’s gotten to the point where I just make up a new recipe for bread pudding every year that always seems to turn out well. This, along with the stalwarts of Christmas dinner (turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, gravy) anchor our Christmas ritual. This year, I introduced some new players to the lineup: cinnamon buns (JUST LIKE CINNABON OMG), smoked trout dip, and spiced simple syrup).
I won’t lie, I in no way made up a recipe for cinnamon buns – I followed this very simple and reasonably quick recipe, which turned out absolutely brilliantly. They WERE exactly like Cinnabon! I want one right now…
The simple syrup…I always try to have a ‘signature cocktail’ now for any sort of gathering. I know it’s rather twee (or, okay, incredibly twee), but I really like it. There’s so much room to play around with different flavours and textures and colours, it’s exactly like creating new recipes, just ones that will loosen inhibitions a bit faster. I looked at a few recipes for spiced holiday cocktails before I made this simple syrup, and to be honest I basically put in all of the holiday spices: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, star anise, orange peel, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, and fennel. I mixed it with sherry, bourbon, lemon juice and soda water to create a light yet deeply flavoured cocktail that evoked all the fragrant, spicy scents of the holidays. Pretty tall order for a simple drink!
My love for cocktails aside, the dish I am most proud of was the smoked trout dip. I won’t get into the ridiculous effort we went to to try to get smoked trout (it involved many, many different grocery stores, plus a pop up fish market), but I somehow ended up purchasing a whole trout. Like with the head and everything. After some rapt Googling on deboning and filleting, my dad and I basically ended up butchering this poor wee fish (my dad more than I, HA sorry Dad!). Although it was brief, this first foray into fish butchery is a memory to hold onto. I then brined the fish quickly a la Alton Brown, then let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight to get tacky (no idea what this does but Alton said so and I believe him). Then the next day, I built my own smoker. That’s right. I used a pot, tinfoil, some rice and some tea and basically MacGuyvered a smoker right in our kitchen. YOLO, guys. I chose a really smokey tea (Lapsang Souchong, my fave) and I think I accidentally burnt the sugar a bit, which gave a very, uh, smokey flavour, but it still ended up going swimmingly (ha ha).
I did find the trout was incredibly strong flavoured after the smoking – probably due to some combination of not fully rinsing all the brine and burning the sugar – but once it was mixed in as a dip, it was so SO good. In case you are feeling intrepid this weekend, I’ve included the links I used to help me along. Let me know how it works for you if you do end up giving it a go!
Now that I’ve given myself all these congratulatory pats on the back, I’m ready for this week to begin! Woohoo, happy February, folks!
Let’s smoke a trout: