Happy Christmas!

December 26, 2007

Hey everyone!  Happy Christmas!  Even though it’s still 2007, and I said I wasn’t going to post anything until the new year, I just had to write down the Christmas dinner that we finished tonight.

Our family has this tradition…okay, it’s not a tradition yet, but it will be!  Anyway, story still applies, we have this tradition of making our Christmas dinner inspired by a different ethnic cuisine every year.  This year: Indian.

I’ll cut to the chase.  Here’s the menu:
  • Indian Spiced Roasted Rack of Lamb
  • Cauliflower and Potato Gratin
  • Braised Carrots with Fennel, Onion, and Cumin Seed
  • Buttermilk Drop Biscuits with Cumin Seed, Black Pepper, and Cayenne
  • Orange Cardamom Ice Cream (recipe not included…call me lazy)

As you might pick up from the recipes that follow, we didn’t exactly succeed in making every dish to its Indian-inspired roots.  But this meal was fantastic anyway and the smells and flavors of Indian cuisine did shine.

If you’re interested, here are the (admittedly rough) recipes:

Indian Spiced Rack of Lamb

1 or 2 racks of lamb, frenched
Indian Spice Rub: indian curry powder, coriander, turmeric, cumin powder, salt, black pepper
Olive Oil (or other vegetable oil)

  • Rub all sides of lamb with spice rub.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Pre-heat oven to 450° and set the oven rack to the center of the oven
  • Brush fatty side of lamb with olive oil, then place in roasting pan, on a rack, oiled side up.
  • Bake for exactly 20 minutes for rare, 25 minutes for medium-rare.
  • Let lamb set for 5 – 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Cauliflower and Potato Gratin

1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower
5 small red potatoes
4 T. butter
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 T. all-purpose flour
2 c. milk
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 large handful Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or more to taste.
1 small bunch of parsley (about 1/4 cup total)
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Using a sharp knife (or if you’re smart, a mandoline) slice the potatoes 1/8″ thick.
  • Trim cauliflower to medium-sized florets
  • Par boil in salty water (it should taste like sea water) for 90 seconds.  Rinse under cold water, or shock in an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add garlic.  Saute garlic to infuse flavor into the butter, but don’t brown it!
  • Add flour and cook for about 3 minutes.  You might want to use a whisk here, so that your roux is smooth and there are no floury lumps.  Those lumps make for bad gratin!
  • Add milk and buttermilk, whisk until smooth, and turn heat down to medium low.
  • Continue to stir the white sauce until it is smooth and thickens up.  It should take about 5 minutes, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. 
  • Now is a good time to add the cheese.  Stir quickly so that it melts evenly into the sauce.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a buttered baking dish, add a thin layer of sauce and spread with a spatula to coat.
  • Add a layer of potatoes (about half of them here) and then cover with another layer of sauce.
  • Add a layer of cauliflower, and again add sauce on top.
  • Finally, top with the rest of the potatoes, more sauce, and into the oven it goes.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, until the potatoes just start to turn brown.
  • Mix the melted butter and bread crumbs together and sprinkle evenly on top of the gratin.  Bake for 10 minutes more.  
  • If at this point, the topping isn’t brown and crispy, throw it under the broiler for a few minutes.  That will definitely do the trick.
Braised Carrots with Fennel, Onion, and Cumin Seed

Olive Oil
1 large fennel bulb (or two small ones, or three really small ones, or four…just kidding), sliced thin.
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1.5 T. cumin seed
2 healthy pinches of kosher salt
8-10 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1.5 c. chicken broth

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add fennel, onion, cumin seed, and kosher salt.  Saute for 10 – 15 minutes or until both the fennel and onion are soft and translucent.  You’re not trying to brown the onions — the salt helps you in this regard. Instead, you’re just trying to bring out their natural sugars.  Be patient.
  • Add carrots, stir two or three times until the carrots are coated evenly with oil.
  • Add chicken broth and cover.
  • Simmer on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Buttermilk Drop Biscuits with Cumin Seed, Black Pepper, and Cayenne

We didn’t invent the wheel on this one.  This recipe is happily borrowed from Cooks Illustrated, and I’ve shared their recipe with you here.  We add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed, 1.5 T of black pepper, and a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne to the flour. Otherwise it’s exactly as it appears in the magazine!

cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
teaspoons baking powder 
1/2  teaspoon baking soda 
teaspoon sugar 
3/4  teaspoon table salt 
cup buttermilk (cold)
tablespoons  unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes), plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps (see photo below).
  • Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Using greased 1/4-cup dry measure, scoop level amount of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (biscuits should measure about 2 1/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high). Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.
  • Brush biscuit tops with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
And that was dinner!  I was supposed to take pictures beforehand to post here, but I’m new to this game and I forgot.  I’ll do better next time.

Until then, Merry Christmas!  I hope you have a wonderful holiday and I will be back next year…or tomorrow if I can’t resist (again).



  1. You’re not British, it’s Merry Christmas.This post is too long, I am not even going to read it.

  2. OK, I am making this meal tonight, but get this, it will the meal to accompany the Pats-Giants football game at our home 🙂 wish me luck

  3. […] shortcake recipe is the same as the buttermilk biscuit recipe from my second post ever way back in December, 2007! I add a tablespoon more sugar and some lemon zest to sweeten it up, […]

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