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Getting ready for the holidays: Stocking the pantry

Pine Street Market bacon

Pine Street Market bacon

For me, one of the great pleasures of the holiday season is stocking the larder. My house is full of people, and I want to be ready for meals that range from elaborate to impromptu. When someone opens the refrigerator at 11 p.m. looking for a little snack’ums, I don’t want them to settle for a Kraft Single and an open can of flat ginger ale. I want them to find a bottle of champagne (”Sure, open it!”), English toffee, smoked salmon and fantastic salami.

Here is my shopping list for the holidays:

  1. A mixed case of wine: Half of it champagne, half of it better-than-everyday but not-good-enough-for-the-cellar reds.
  2. Offbeat snack items: People snack constantly because they all have five pounds of winter fat to gain. So be it. That’s why we have crackers. But cheese on those crackers can become such rut over the holidays. I’m all about the weird jars you find in gourmet stores and ethnic markets, such as prepared caponata, Balkan ajvar (pickled eggplant relish) and Bella Cucina artichoke pesto and creamed or pickled herring. I’ll also pick up refrigerated pâtés and smoked trout, as well as some frozen doodads like mini quiches. And after living the past 12 years in the South, I know you don’t go into the holiday season without a block of cream cheese and a jar of pepper jelly.
  3. Smoked and cured meats: As soon as I file this post, I’m off to the excellent Pine Street Market in Avondale Estates to pick up four pounds of their amazing applewood-smoked bacon as well as some herbes de Provence-scented salami.
  4. Ingredients for sugary cooking projects: At least one batch of English toffee and one of butter tarts will happen before the year is out. When it happens depends on a lot of overlapping schedules, so I’ll have the ingredients ready to go.
  5. Holiday pantry staples: These are not the same as non-holiday staples. They include heavy whipping cream, buttermilk, best-quality cocoa, marshmallows, and an inexhaustible supply of White Lily cornbread mix. Among other things…
  6. The mail-order splurge: Once a year, we write away to D’Artagnan for a whole lobe of foie gras. I can usually find a nice vendange tardive Alsatian wine that I’ve socked away in the basement to go with.
  7. Hunk of beast: Usually a leg of lamb, but sometimes a standing rib roast. It never quite seems like Christmas without one big, bloody thing served on one day during the week. (Oh, right, need mint jelly…)
  8. Sister Schubert’s rolls: I will certainly make dinner rolls at least once over the holidays. But for those other cold nights when people always seem to want bread with their meals, it’s Sister to the rescue.

Did I miss anything?

17 comments Add your comment

jimmy

December 22nd, 2009
12:54 pm

This apply’s to #2, but for a Christmas party last weekend, I had Star Provisions put together a cured meat selection (hot soppressata, finocchiona, and one other I can’t recall), and asked Tim Gaddis to pick out a cheese.

It cost me about $30 and was enough for an appetizer portion for 12 people.

Just wanted to plug those guys, cause their product is awesome and they are always helpful when I leave the selections up to them.

Rod

December 22nd, 2009
1:55 pm

jimmy – how’d you do that? I’ve been to Star Provisions, but I wouldn’t know who to ask about putting together the cured meat selection. Can you give me step-by-step instructions? Please?

Jamie Gumbrecht

December 22nd, 2009
2:55 pm

So, I’m only on my second year in the South — what on earth do you do with cream cheese and pepper jelly? Do you put them on crackers? Together?!

Reds

December 22nd, 2009
3:07 pm

Jamie — yes! put the block of cream cheese down on a pretty plate, pour (slop, spread, whatever) the jelly on top, and eat with crackers. It’s a tasty and easy appetizer. :)

GretchenS

December 22nd, 2009
4:21 pm

Pine Street Market? I MUST have been living under a rock! How could such a wondrous place be so close by and I had no idea? Thanks for the tip!

Michigander

December 22nd, 2009
5:33 pm

This applies to No. 6. Once a year I order a pound of vanilla beans. They really come in handy at this time of year with all the cookie making, muffin baking and creme brulee-ing. Once upon a time, I used the beans for homemade vanilla extract. I’d put it in pretty bottles to give as gifts.

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Jere

December 22nd, 2009
6:30 pm

Could you please share your recipies for toffee and butter tarts? Imagine making toffee from scratch, up till now, I thought that toffee only came in a See’s canister.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me until I’ve made a batch of fudge using the original recipe from the back of the marshmallow cream jar.

Mrs. Whatsit

December 22nd, 2009
8:14 pm

Jamie, cream cheese and pepper jelly on crackers sounds like an odd combo, but it actually works beautifully. The jelly is both sweet and a little hot; and together the smoothness of the cream cheese and the crispness of the crackers complete the experience of contrasting tastes and textures! Yum!

Fred

December 22nd, 2009
8:37 pm

I can usually eat something once and be able to cook it correctly in 3 or less tries by taste alone, but I can’t bake ANYTHING (I include candy making in baking lol). Ok, so I can make cornbread and biscuits, but being a Southerner, those don’t count as baking, that is like saying I can breath…………. I can’t even bake those cookies where all you have to do it put the dough on the cookie sheet………… :(

rebelliousrose

December 23rd, 2009
7:18 am

Curried shrimp dip, spread on melba toast. Always the highlight of the holidays. So simple, so incredibly delicious.

brianw

December 23rd, 2009
9:44 am

Hey speaking of champagne, can you all point me in the direction of good choices with regards to quality and price? I like Brut (with regards to dryness, not the cologne by Faberge).

Thanks!

Liz

December 23rd, 2009
8:38 pm

ha ha – the kraft single line made me giggle.

FM Fats

December 23rd, 2009
10:05 pm

Pine Street is wonderful. The salamis are great. Check out Layne Lee’s Sweet ‘n’ Sinful bakery by the old movie theater.
You need a couple of sixpacks of good seasonal brewskies, too.

elatedreader

December 24th, 2009
10:12 am

One of my favorite postings to date. Your idea of a stocked holiday pantry makes me smile. Champagne and marshmallows? Yes, please.

JaredZ

December 24th, 2009
2:38 pm

I love traditional southern foods in the winter but, when it comes to meet for the holidays I ALWAYS order my Kielbasa from Stanley’s market in Toledo.

Stephanie

December 24th, 2009
4:58 pm

My Italian self has to have fish on Christmas Eve. I went to DeKalb Farmer’s Market, got some good grouper, and I’ll top it with roasted tomato, garlic,and pancetta. I know it’s tradition to have seven fish, but there are only two of us in the house. And nobody really likes smelts or bacala, anyway. ;)