Spending time in the kitchen is certainly time well spent—relaxing, creative time where the reward is eaten in the end. Add my daughter Sophia to the mix, and cooking (or planning holiday dinners) is as good as father/daughter time gets! Now, Sophia can be brave at times, willing to at least try everything, but like most seven year olds, mac & cheese or chicken nuggets usually does the trick. I told her a few years ago that she can’t hate something she has never tried, so she is not only willing to try new dishes, but during the holidays she has the responsibility of planning Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve menus with only a little help from me.
We started this a few years ago, I think right around this time of year, and she asked me to buy seafood so she could try it. So I brought home a few scallops, some very large shrimp, Alaskan king crab, clams, octopus and a few other things, and we made them and she tried everything…she even liked a few of them! The crab was her favorite (figures) and we continue since then to buy salmon and shrimp. So now I ask her every holiday season to give me suggestions—and we plan our feasts accordingly!
I usually roast a duck for Thanksgiving. I’m not much of a turkey guy, and neither is Sophia. She will eat an entire duck if I let her, but she likes variety, so duck is only one thing in the oven on Thursday evening. This year, she spotted a Cornish game hen at the market, so we grabbed a couple of them, some red potatoes because she likes the color and some green beans, because she likes the taste. These, along with the duck, were our quiet dinner for two.
For Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, we rely more heavily on seafood. I will buy a little bit of the usual crustaceans, a nice chunk of some fresh fish, and make French onion soup because I like it. Keta caviar is for me; she won’t touch that stuff again! Last December 31st, on the way home from work late, I found Dover sole fresh and on sale for $5.99 (mis-marked, but they honored the price) and I bought all they had—about 10 fillets. After my Charles Mignon Rosé Grand Cru Champagne and tin of Keta, we simmered the sole in butter and lemon and it was so elegant. Sophia loved it as much as I did.
We are still adding new foods to the list for 2014, so no telling what we end up cooking, but I have to tell you, the food doesn’t really matter. I like being in my kitchen anyways, but watching Sophia help, telling me when to add this or stir that…it’s the best Christmas present anyone could ask for! Like the line in that country song goes, “And she thinks we’re just fishing…”
Shayne Hebert, Central Florida wine supervisor
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