Through the Kitchen Window

We’ve had an unseasonably warm fall. Don’t misunderstand me though. I’m not complaining. It’s been nice, more than nice. Just a bit difficult to imagine Christmas preparations without the chill that’s “supposed” to accompany such things. So, ever obliging, Mother Nature has finally turned her attention to the Great White North and given us some chilly weather to take us into Santa Parade season and all the “traditional” Christmas activity. Skating on the local pond with a warm bowl of chili waiting. Caroling door to door with the promise of marshmallow laden hot chocolate rewards. Trekking deep into the nearby woods to emerge hours later, red cheeked and with frosted lashes, the “perfect” tree in tow.

If you’ve followed this space for any length of time, then you know that Christmas is one of my favourite, no, make that my very favourite season. In this spot over the last seven or eight years, you’ve heard about our Christmas Eve traditions -- a totally seafood meal and our table gift centre piece. You’ve heard about my advent calendar / treasure hunt. We’ve talked about cheesecake, discussed the ultimate way to cook your bird, compared notes on egg nog -- nothing beats homemade!!! -- and I’ve shared the secrets of my daughter’s cookie magic.

I’m out and about these days and though, to some, it seems a bit early, I’m reveling in the Christmas decorations, the Santa and angel ornaments and ever present in the back of my mind is the hunt for the latest addition to my Christmouse collection. I started the collection the first year I was married and though I’m no longer married, I have continued it, or should I say, my children and friends have helped me continue it, year after year. Last year the count on Christmice (Christmas mice) was well over 50. Since I’ve only been collection since 1978, well, though I’m an accountant, even the most creative bookkeeping doesn’t make that come out to one per year. But that’s what makes it fun. Some years I’ve been given sets of three or more mice in a theme, bands of musicians, townspeople, young mice sledding, skating, caroling and such. Each one a very different and very distinct memory. I look forward to taking them out each year, and I hate putting them away at the end of the season.

Which brings me to this column. What special collection, memento, ornament, or memory defines the season for you? Share it with me in the feedback provided at the end of the column. I look forward to hearing from you.

One of the best things about Christmas turkey, for me, is the stock that gets made with the carcass the day after. Turkey leftovers, above all other leftovers, are always centre stage at my house. We’re all huge turkey fans, but nothing compares to the anticipation, aided and abetted by the aroma of a simmering stock, of a home made turkey soup. And the best part is it’s got to be the easiest thing I make.

Into my biggest stock pot, I place my turkey carcass, the neck and giblets and any bits and pieces of left over vegetable. In addition, I add a few fresh stalks of celery, an onion, some fresh carrots and a couple of leeks. Split three or four ripe roma tomatoes (canned ones will do nicely) and add four cloves of garlic (I don’t bother to peel them). Add salt, a handful of mixed peppercorns, cover it with water, and you’re good to go. Usually I simmer it at least four hours, but I’ve been known to start it late in the evening, and let it go all night very very low. When it’s cooled, I strain it through a sieve lined with cheese cloth.

The rest is up to you. You can add cooked pastina (small pasta shapes made for soup), rice, mini ravioli, couscous, whatever your heart desires. Then make it more interesting with turkey bits, fresh vegetable dices that you’ve sautéed in a bit of butter first, or freeze it for use later on. Frozen stock is handy for all sorts of recipes including traditional risotto or as a base for an on the spur of the moment gravy, stew or pot roast. Whatever you do with yours, you’re sure to enjoy the memory and flavour of Christmas whenever you revisit your “turkey” this way.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you loyal readers for being there. And I wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season, in whatever language you celebrate it.

From me, to you, Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!!!

I’ll be back in this same spot, next year!!!

TTFN!!!

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