I am, of course, late in saying this, but I’ll say it anyway: Happy New Year!
Christmas went by quickly, a solid week full of feasts, family, and friends. We spent one particularly pleasant evening with the Jacksons, sipping on Dad’s excellent cocktails and filling each other in on life. The next day Dad and I took Pip to the forest for my annual Christmas breath of fresh air out of LA, which was just as rejuvenating as ever.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I went over to Bailey and Matt’s house. Upon arriving, I was greeted warmly by Cathy, Matt’s mom, handed a glass of champagne, given slippers to wear outside, and ushered over to the lit (and I mean that literally, I’m not cool enough for the other way) chiminea with Bailey and Cathy. It was a lovely, cool day. We sipped on pink bubbles and discussed literature, dying, and religion—you know, the usual light topics of conversation—as the fire popped and fluttered in front of us. It was so pleasant that I was a bit dismayed when Jonji finally arrived to pick me up. After meeting Debbie to carpool, we traveled over the hill to Jason and Shellie’s house, where we spent a lovely evening with most of Jonji’s side of the family. We played a fun new game that requires a lot more historical knowledge than I currently have (if only information lasted more than a year in my brain), and participated in our annual Secret Santa gift exchange. I came out of it with exactly what I wanted: a cookbook and several ramekins for delights such as pots de crème and mousse (thanks again, Andre!). Finally, we called it a night.
Christmas morning dawned bright and sunny. Upon waking, I was immediately recruited for coffee and breakfast prep before Bailey, Matt, and Cathy arrived. We finally sat down by the fire to open gifts, the pile of which nearly dwarfed the tree, and the air was soon filled with thank yous, exclamations of joy, and laughter. The best part was definitely watching Pip open his presents, which he did very carefully but with great gusto. Mugs of hot chocolate kept us satisfied until, finally, we were all hungry enough to make brunch.
After a quick walk along Westcliff with Pip, we piled into cars to journey over to the fire station for dinner. We picked Debbie up along the way and met Jerry and Suzy there—it was quite the family affair. Dad’s crew was working hard in the kitchen when we got there, industrial cookware filled to bursting. All the other crew members had family members there as well, making it quite a huge group. We sat down to dinner at a row of tables that took up the entire truck bay, under lights Dad had strung up earlier that day. Fortunately the engine only got a couple of quick calls, but it was enough for Jerry, Matt, and Jonji to each get a mini ride-along. Once dinner was over we all slumped onto the couches, exhausted from the long week.
Poor Dad came home from work the next day with the flu, which left him in bed all day. It seems like a holiday season will never go by without at least one person in the family getting hit hard with one sickness or another. Mom, Emma, and I went over to Bailey’s for a while, where we devoured apple crisp and tackled the end of the Christmas Eve puzzle. Mom decided it would be best to horde pieces until she found their rightful place, leaving the rest of us floundering and having to periodically raid Smaug’s—I mean, Mom’s—stores. Finally, we finished it!
The next day Jonji and I made the familiar drive home to LA, cats sleeping contentedly in the back seat.
New Year’s Eve was a casual affair. Jonji and I went to Todd and Jessica’s place for an evening full of food and games, all while wearing the suggested uniform, pajamas. Princess Mononoke played silently in the background, causing one friend who had never seen it severe distress every time they caught a glimpse of the superbly strange animation. During dinner, a friend of a friend came by and proceeded to become a legend due to his impressing ability to turn every single subject into an anecdote about his heritage. I am not exaggerating. I’m all for people being proud of their roots but, trust me, this was an entirely different level. Despite the frequent monologues, we had a great time playing different games and laughing until midnight.
A couple Sundays ago we had Todd, Jessica, Dan, and Tiff over for dinner.* Most of us had work off that Monday, so we took our time over roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots, and greens, and cooed over Todd and Jessica’s newest addition to their family, a little terrier named Bailey. She’s a super sweet little dog, and very friendly for having just been adopted. She took a liking to me, either because she knows Hana and Bailey are a natural match, or because I was the one in the kitchen the most. After playing a couple of games and devouring salted-caramel chocolate mousse (in my new ramekins) and shortbread cookies, we called it a night.
*Jonji and I were recently spurred to host more dinner parties after reading the Dinner Party Download book, which makes a great argument for having more. Their podcast, now finished, is also excellent.
Last Friday I got home from work, excited for another end to what felt like a long week (even though it was only four days). Jonji was working another night shift, so I made dinner by myself. After prepping everything I went to turn the stove on, only to find that the flames would not stay lit. My worst nightmare had come true. After having a mini panic attack, my neighbor knocked on my door and reported that everyone’s gas was off—apparently the earthquake switch had been flipped somehow, and each apartment needed their gas to be turned back on separately. A few minutes later, another neighbor knocked and offered to show me to the guy who was fixing other apartments’ gas so that I could also put my name on his list. As that was at 9pm, I was pretty confident he would be there and done by at 10:30 at the latest. So I bided my time, munching on salad and toast and watching GBBO episodes for the third time. I was almost ready to give up when the guy finally knocked at 12:30am and turned the gas back on.
If your gas is working, I highly recommend that you make this super-easy, luxurious salmon. It’s another recipe from Mom, as evidenced by the plentiful serving of cream. The rich cream sauce (pretty much the same sauce that’s used in the sweet potato gratin) melds perfectly with the delicate salmon, and I’m secretly glad when my plans to make this dish land on a night when Jonji’s working late. I like to serve it with simple roasted fingerling potatoes and broccolini that’s been quickly blanched and then sautéed in butter and garlic.
Salmon in Cream
1 lb salmon fillet
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1/3 cup (or more) heavy cream
leaves from 4 thyme sprigs
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook for about a minute, until translucent. Quickly add the cream, thyme, salt, and a few cracks of pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and set aside.
Place the salmon in a baking dish that allows it to sit snugly (for narrow fillets, I put ours in a glass loaf pan). Pour the cream over the fish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Enjoy hot!