Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Very Belgian Christmas

Yesterday, in the midst of my annoying sickness, we traveled out to get our Christmas tree. My initial plan had been to get the tree on Saturday so we didn't have to go out at all on Sunday. The idea was that my normal disinterest in decorating the tree could be avoided if I didn't have to go out, cut it down, and lug it home all in the same day.

Jen with Fred (Best Friends)

For the third year in a row we went to Maple Row Tree Farm. Jen and Fred were able to mend their broken relationship after last year's falling out.

Nate's Christmas Tree Tying (Outside)

I tied my side of the tree to the roof pretty well. Just look at how tight that twine is!

Jen's Christmas Tree Tying (Outside)

Not to pass judgment but Jen's side left a little to be desired. The guy at the farm felt so bad for us that he help us by re-tying her end.

Grilled Baguette with Gruyere and Leftover Cranberry Sauce

For lunch today I used up a remaining baguette with another of Mark Bittman's Thanksgiving leftover recipes this year. It was simply a grilled cheese with Gruyere and cranberry sauce and it was quite delicious.

Christmas Tree with Lights

After lunch I discovered that the flood had damaged more strands of our Christmas lights than I'd thought. I had previously tested them but apparently they were waiting until I had the tree up to blow out completely. This lead to an I-told-you-so-filled trip to the nearby hardware store to get the last three remaining strands they had for sale.

Carbonade Flamande

After stringing up the lights I settled in to make carbonade flamande, a Belgian stew. I based this off of the recipe in Culinaria and made it by browning the beef stew meat in a little butter then removing it and cooking down some onions, then adding the beef back with salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme, sage, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and beer.

Carbonade Flamande with Leffe

For beer I chose to use this Leffe for added authenticity.

Carbonade Flamande and Stoemp aux Carottes

I served the carbonade with stoemp aux carottes which is simply boiled potatoes and carrots mashed together. I added some salt, pepper, butter and freshly ground nutmeg.

Brasserie Dubuisson Bush (Scaldis) Noël

To match the theme of tonight's dinner I chose this Bush De Noël from Brasserie Dubuisson in Belgium. I've had their regular Bush beer before and it was one of the best beers I've ever had. When a friend gave me this Christmas version I was excited to give it a try.

The beer is not labeled as Bush in the United States because there is a flavorless American beer called "Busch" and they don't want to confuse the general public. Apparently there is a huge problem with people walking into the tiny import wall of fine beer stores and picking up a single 8 ounce bottle of this beer for $7.00 and thinking that they're getting a can of Busch Light.

Surely we can understand that confusion. Good on the American legal system!

Bush Beer and Busch Beer Comparison

I mean, look at the packaging. You can barely tell the difference between the two.

Christmas Spot the Difference

It's like one of those "Spot the Difference" puzzles where you have to figure out what's different between the two pictures. Can you spot the differences between the two beers or the two Christmas scenes?

Hint: one of the Christmas scenes is flavorless.

Hot Red Jacket Orchard Cider

After decorating the tree we settled down for a nice little seasonal celebratory drink. Jen's drink of choice: hot apple cider. At the Christmas tree farm yesterday there was a woman marveling at the hot cider available. She was chasing after her children telling them: "This is amazing. You've got to check this out. It's from apples but it's hot! It's like apple juice but they serve it hot!"

The kids seemed as shocked as we were that she had never heard of this before.

Ronnybrook Egg Nog with Nutmeg

I went with this egg nog from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, a splash of brandy, and some fresh nutmeg.

With that we settled in to watch some of our growing Christmas movie collection. Tonight was the perfect night to watch the short ones: Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Muppet Family Christmas.

All this while fumbling with ornaments around the tree and swearing.

True meaning of Christmas = discovered.

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