Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

As you know, I recently married a British nutter and relocated to Germany, where I assume we both will remain for a significant period of time. Like most newlyweds, we wish to start our own traditions for the holidays, but since our possessions have not arrived yet, we are living in a nearly empty flat.

No seriously: our flat is nearly empty. For example, in Germany, when people move into their own flat, it is empty of all furnishings — including the entire kitchen. Most Germans design and purchase their kitchen before moving in — refrigerator, stove, range top, microwave, dishwasher, counters, cabinets and lighting ..

Currently, our kitchen consists of white tile walls and floor, nine outlets (one specifically for the stove), one water fixture (split into two so half of the water can be sent through a small water heater wall unit — which is sitting on the floor at the moment), and one large drainpipe with paper stuffed into it.

After a lot of agonizing, lots of trips to appliance stores, and meetings with several experts, my spouse and I finally managed to design and order our kitchen from IKEA, and now we are waiting for it to arrive and be installed. Originally, it was supposed to be delivered and installed on the afternoon of 30 December, so of course, we would be without a full kitchen for the holidays. (We did purchase a beautiful, super-energy efficient refrigerator ten days ago, and a microwave that also works as a small convection oven). So we were making plans for that unfortunate situation, but this morning, IKEA called and asked if we would like our kitchen to be delivered and installed tomorrow morning!

Of course!

So it looks like my spouse and I will have a brand-new fully-functional kitchen in time for Christmas! This past weekend, we reserved a hen duck that we will cook for our Christmas meal (it will be small enough to fit into our microwave/oven) but now it looks like we will be able to do more cooking than that. All we have to do is clean the space that will be our kitchen (I refer to it as “the hole in the wall” because it is long and narrow and dark and not perfectly square) and tomorrow, it will be magically transformed from a dark, narrow alcove into a bright, functional kitchen. Already, I am planning to photograph the kitchen before, during and after the installation, so I can share it with you.

As we prepare to finally have our own kitchen, I am thinking of all the foods we can now prepare ourselves. I am very interested to know which foods you especially enjoy during your Christmas/holiday celebrations. If you have favorite recipes to share, I’d be most grateful, and I will probably end up preparing at least some of these foods. I have only a few days to find all the ingredients (stores close early in Germany), so I need to get started with purchasing ingredients immediately.

There are two things on the menu so far: roast duck stuffed with a mango-based dressing, and a fruit salad consisting of a variety of tropical fruits, and perhaps some cooked and mashed sweet potatoes with pineapple chunks mixed in, but I am certainly interested in any recipes you have that you would like to share. If you have a recipe for duck with mango dressing, I’d sure appreciate it if you share that, since I’ve never prepared duck before (my cookbooks and recipes are all in transit, so the best I can do is Google a recipe and modify it as I prepare it).

I am interested in a recipe for hot buttered rum, eggnog and Glühwein, if you have favorites for those drinks that you’d like to share.

Comments

  1. #1 Keith Marshall
    December 21, 2009

    Another British nutter writes …

    Although we’ve been married 30 years (this is our 30th Christmas together! Eeekkkk!) we’ve never really developed any Christmas food traditions, except that we don’t eat the ubiquitous turkey every year. Some years we do; just as often we don’t. And as we have a really good “free range”/”organic” butcher if we do have turkey it will be a select variety like Norfolk Bronze. No, we tend to eat whatever meat we decide we fancy about 3-4 weeks before Christmas; this year it will be roast pork. With the roast, which we nowdays always have in the evening of Christmas Day, there will generally be at least two of: roast (like potatoes) Jerusalem artichokes, fennel (roast like any other veg or cook in a foil parcel) and red cabbage. And as often as not we eat just the one course, with a good bottle of wine and a liqueur. Of recent years Christmas Day lunch has been smoked salmon sandiwches and chanpagne – now there’s a tradition to start! And Boxing Day lunch is cold meat, hot mashed potato (and/or bubble & squeak) with pickles and a beer.

    We do however have one or two non-food Christmas traditions of our own. We’ve adopted my parents’ present opening tradition: “main” presents opened round the fire on Christmas morning accompanied by a gin & tonic (or a start on the champagne) and “tree” presents (which are supposed to be small, trinkety things or chocolate etc. which will fit under a modern small tree) on Christmas Day evening.

    We also put up some Christmas lights in our window on the feast of Christ the King (Sunday before Advent 1) and leave them up until Candlemas (2 Feb) to light our way through the worst of the winter darkness – very pagan! And there’s always a wreath on the front door. And you have to put a sprig of holly on the clocks to keep the devil away (I can’t remember where that one came from). I’m sure we have others, but they escape me for the moment.

    One tradition we had when I was a kid (late 50s to 60s) was to alwys go for a walk round the housing estate on the evening of Christmas Day or Boxing Day to look at other peoples’ lights and Christmas trees.

    But basically I’d say make up whatever tradition you want to for yourselves. All you need to do is to add to it a little mystery or myth (like our lights). And it doesn’t have to make sense or even be sane!

  2. #2 stripey_cat
    December 21, 2009

    I’ll let you in on my secret ingredient for mulled wine: I add black peppercorns to the spices to help give depth to the flavour. Use whole spices because they’re easier to strain out of the drink afterwards, and blend to taste from cinnamon, cloves, allspice, mace, and the non-traditional pepper. Use a rough, cheap wine (not one that’s actually off, but the sort that you speculate could be used to unblock drains) as a wine that’s palatable out of the bottle will taste bland sweetened. Make sure your lemon and orange are unwaxed (shell out for organic if necessary). Go easy on the sugar and brandy at first, as they can overwhelm the rest – you’ll want less sugar if your wine is less rough to start with.

    Put your spices with a small amount of wine to heat and steep (it’s very hard to overspice, and if you manage it, you can pour some of the spice-concentrate into the fridge for tomorrow, or add another bottle to the pot). Slice the citrus fruits and start dissolving your sugar in some of the wine. Once you’re ready to go, put everything into a pan with a lid on, and gently heat it (the lid is to condense the ethanol fumes). Taste it before you serve it! and adjust sweetness/fortification.

    The brandy is traditional, but rather dangerous if people are going to have ad lib access – the stuff goes down like lemonade. If you suspect your guests are getting too drunk, heat the next batch a bit hotter (or even let some of the ethanol boil off), but be sure to have the window open or you’ll end up falling-down drunk!

  3. #3 chezjake
    December 21, 2009

    French Canadian Christmas Carrots

    3-4 slices of good smoky bacon, chopped in 1/4″ strips
    1 small onion, chopped
    6-8 smallish carrots, sliced thinly (about 1/8″)
    freshly ground black pepper to taste

    In a pot that has a tight fitting lid sauté the bacon until almost crisp, add onions and carrots, stir to coat everything with bacon fat, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pepper just before serving.

  4. #4 k8
    December 21, 2009

    My family makes cream puffs for dessert on Christmas Day. Weird, but we’ve been doing it for years! We fill them with peppermint ice cream and top with chocolate sauce. And the next day if there’s any leftovers, they make awesome vehicles for sandwich fillings.

    CREAM PUFF PASTRY

    1/2 c. butter
    1 c. boiling water
    1 c. pre-sifted flour
    1/4 tsp. salt
    4 eggs

    Put butter and water in small saucepan; stir over high heat until melted and liquid is boiling rapidly. Add flour and salt at once; raise saucepan a few inches above heat. Stir briskly. Mixture will come away from sides of pan and form a ball in center.

    Cook and stir 30 seconds more. Remove from heat. Break 1 egg into the paste; beat fast until smooth and fluffy. Repeat until all the eggs are used.

    Drop by whatever size you want (1/4 cup) onto ungreased cookie sheet 3 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees until puffed and golden 35-40 minutes. Cool away from drafts. Cut off tops and fill with filling or ice cream.

  5. #5 lectric lady
    December 21, 2009

    You will never want the store-bought stuff again!

    Aunt Jenny’s Egg Nog

    Makes 4 qts. 1 qt. serves approx. 9 punch cup

    9 eggs, separated
    1 pt. heavy cream
    1 C sugar
    1 pt. brandy
    1 C rum
    1 ½ qt. Milk
    1 very large container
    freshly grated nutmeg

    Beat egg whites until stiff; set aside.
    Beat cream until whipped; set aside.
    In a large container, beat egg yolks to a cream. Add sugar and beat again. Add liquor slowly. Add milk. Fold in whipped cream and then the egg whites. Mix all (it will be somewhat lumpy).

    Let stand in refrigerator, or very cold space, for 24 hours before serving.

    Top each serving with grated nutmeg.

    ½ recipe

    5 eggs, separated
    ½ pt. heavy cream
    ½ C sugar
    1 C brandy
    ½ C rum
    ¾ qt. milk
    1 large mixing bowl

  6. #6 mocular
    December 21, 2009

    ! measure tonic water, 3 measures gin, 1 slice lime, 1 hand full of ice. Stir gently. Enjoy.

  7. #7 Bob O'H
    December 22, 2009

    I like mocular’s recipe: I’ll be able to follow it.

  8. #8 "GrrlScientist"
    December 24, 2009

    i made aunt jenny’s egg nog today and put it into the coldest place i knew of. later, after a few hours, i went back for a taste and found it had become alcoholic ice cream. yum!

  9. #9 lectric lady
    December 24, 2009

    OH!OH!OH!

    How do you describe the bestest Snoopy Dog Dance evah?

    GrrlScientist is drinking my eggnog on her first Christmas-in-love!!!

    My Best Christmas Present Ever!