Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas cheer

The goose looks like a small baby, round like a barrel and dead for maybe three days. Its clammy fatty breast is pitted with what look like pustules from a horrific medieval disease, dark and sometimes sprouting feathers and surrounded by dark red and purple bruises. It looks disgusting, and the fact that it only cost a tenner seems to add to that. But it signals for sure that the Day is almost here. Once again I have spent the entirety of this day in the kitchen, making the place more festive than a fire in a fireworks factory.

There was a pan of warm cream and piles of cinnamon bark, star anise and some cloves to make tomorrow’s cinnamon ice cream; a tray of hot roasted chestnuts to go into my pear and date stuffing; and a small bowl of large raisins into which I poured a good glug of brandy and some Havana Club, and which I then stuck my nose right into just for the fucking craic.

Suddenly, although totally expectedly, I had the answer to why I was approaching This Christmas in such a tense manner and dreading it like a lagging Greylag. Of course: it was the lack of drink and its intoxicating warmth and childhood comfort. Some carols on the radio in the background nearly tipped me over the edge. This wasn’t to be the first time today that I would flirt so dangerously with alcohol. I later found myself with my head buried deep into a pan of port that was reducing for tonight’s tea and whose ethanol vapours near knocked me off my feet. I tried to divert the issue by marvelling at the clarity and structural properties of my stock as I spooned satisfying scoops from its plastic tub into the port reduction. I have no idea what I will do tomorrow.

But in the mean time I continued to distract myself with my Christmas Even feast. It was hardly a feast, mind. I had confied the legs of the mallards in goose fat all day, legs that had been marinating overnight in Chinese five-spice and the like. There wasn’t much meat on them that hadn’t been crystallized, but enough to be bulked out with some chopped chestnuts and sweated shallots into a filling for a dozen tortellini. So there was a little pasta to be made along the way.

A posh chinky really. I served the pasta, which even resembled a steamed dumpling, on a pile of shredded winter greens livened up with some chopped herbs and surrounded it with a glossy pool of this refined part sauce, which I had sweetened up at the end with a teaspoon of plum jelly. And it tasted of Christmas. And everything is now in place for Christmas. Just some stuffing, churning and chopping to do. Not to mention learning how to cook a fucking 3kilo goose, for two.

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