Tis the season for holiday parties! My uncle Andrew and aunt Nan hosted their usual dazzling display last Saturday, and I really did feel like a photographer for some awesome food magazine.
There was cheese… and cheese… and cheese and cheese and cheese.
There were gorgey crunchy endive boats (and endive always makes me think of my grandma and that makes me happy).
I thoroughly enjoyed all the savory offerings but really didn’t bother to photograph too many of them because… because… dear God, the dessert table.
Buche de noel! Homemade candies! Blondies! Cookies!
And then some more cookies!
Nan’s baking fills me with awe. She is also extremely casual about the whole thing, as opposed to me, the person who goes “LOOK AT WHAT I MADE. EAT IT. EAT IT ALL. TELL ME HOW GOOD IT IS.”
Their house is also very fun at parties because with the clever use of tarps and Christmas lights, they turn their garage into a bar.
My sister offered to pose provocatively.
Our contribution to the evening was the “secret family recipe” for artichoke dip.
It’s not a secret, but it definitely is on the family’s greatest hits list, as evidenced by the fact that not one but two people made it for just this party.
As with most good things in life, it begins with cheese. My mother would be loath to give you an exact quantity, but I’d say 2 1/2 cups wouldn’t be off the mark. Cheddar. Grated. We did a mix of regular and white cheddar (we finally, FINALLY finished the six pounds of cheese my mom won!)
Next, two cans of artichokes, given a chopsie, and garlic, minced. Don’t skimp on the garlic. For this batch, which made two bowls of dip, my mom used four cloves. “Nice fat ones”, in my mother’s exact words.
For binding? Good old fashioned mayo. About 1/4 cup. You can use low fat. Stir it all together.
Then bake in a 350 degree oven until the edges are browned. This sometimes takes 30 minutes, I guess, but this time it took weirdly long. Perhaps it was because we used lite mayo! Anyway, take it out of the oven, feed it to your loved ones, and watch their eyes roll back in their head.
True story: my mom had invited her friends to a holiday party, and they knew they would be late. They called her from the road and begged her not to put out the artichoke dip until they arrived, so they would get some before everyone ate it all.
So simple, so powerful.
And we now reach Christmas Eve dinner, hosted by my aunt Dena and uncle Louie.
Following the tradition started by my grandma back in the day, we always do chicken curry Christmas Eve. It’s really not remotely like anything you’d eat in India, it’s more like… chicken and gravy with a certain exotic flair.
In the Indian-ish tradition, they also made samosas with puff pastry (!). Ohhhhhhhh yessssssssss.
Tangy sweet fruity filling. SO good.
Aaaand the traditional curry…
With various choices of vegetable and fruit accompaniments.
I was feeling plant-y so I just helped myself to scads of salads, rice and almond pilaf, naan and raita (multiply that quantity by about five!), and samooooooooooooooooosas.
Erin tagged along for the occasion (well, actually I forced her, in the theory that even if someone is Jewish they should not be alone on Christmas Eve!)
And she looked crazy fierce (I’m very proud of this shot- I got it when we were all warming our toes by Dena and Louie’s epic fireplace).
And then we had a cute little photoshoot of scarf action:
And boot action:
And monkey action: