Sunday, December 28, 2008
A Černý Vůl Christmas
Emma and Daisy in front of the fire on Christmas eve. Note Emma's note to Santa hanging to the right of the fire.
We had a lovely holiday, just the three of us.
There's something to be said for a quiet Christmas, and for celebrating with a youngster. Emma is 8, believes in Santa Claus, and couldn't have been more excited.
We had a fire in the fireplace, good food and drink, and even shared the holiday spirit with our neighbors out here in Černý Vůl, a hamlet no one has ever heard of, northwest of Prague.
Our cat Zhenya strikes a pose.
On Christmas eve, we took some home-baked chocolate chip and Italian almond cookies to Petr and Jirina Hlavaty, who live on one side of us, and about whom I wrote a few weeks ago in this blog.
They came over on Christmas Day and delivered some of their own homemade Czech Christmas cookies.
Czech Christmas cookies.
Then we delivered more of the same to our other neighbors, whose names we still sadly don't know, more than a year after moving in. But we do say hi to them all the time.
Only the husband was home, cooking away in the kitchen, and he came out, all smiles, and took our cookies, then went inside, grabbed some shot glasses, came back out, went to the trunk of his car, brought out a bottle of what I believe was Stará myslivecká (Old Huntsman), a sort of herbal Czech liqueur or cognac, and we had three shots standing out in the driveway.
Merry Christmas indeed!
Our other cat, Chicho, gets in on the act.
Emma hung her Christmas list from the fireplace mantle for Santa. She asked for a spy kit and a Polly Pocket doll house, among other things. Overnight, Santa drank the milk and ate the cookies that Emma left out for Santa, and it appeared that the reindeer also enjoyed their carrots.
For Christmas dinner, we decided to go for roast beast, as Emma likes to say, thanks to "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Or roast beef, ordered from the English butcher in Prague, Chris Robertson. (Last year for Christmas we had an unbelievably delicious ham from Robertson's.)
Unfortunately, when I arrived on Christmas eve to pick it up, there was a slight mixup in my order. (In fact, my order wasn't there. But there was a roast in the display case, albeit about twice as large as the one I'd ordered.
Even though they offered to cut it up to my liking, I decided to take the whole damn thing.
We ended up with a 2.2-kilogram (5-pound) top loin roast for about $80 (1,542 CZK). Not cheap, but Christmas dinner comes once a year.
I'd never cooked a roast before, amazingly enough, and so I consulted both "The Joy of Cooking" and Craig Claiborne's "Kitchen Primer" for some tips.
I'd purchased a meat rack and an instant meat thermometer for the occasion (both ordered from the U.S.; I couldn't find a meat rack in Prague to save my life).
In the end, I was talking to my parents on the telephone and lost track of the time, and I ended up with a medium roast after about three hours in the oven at around 350 degrees F, or 177 C, when I was shooting for medium rare. Oh, well.
It was still delicious (and also made for great leftovers), especially with a little horseradish on the side.
I even made my own gravy from the drippings, which turned out better than any of my previous gravy attempts (again, thanks to "The Joy of Cooking").
Daisy made some fantastic side dishes, including maple-glazed carrots, mashed potatoes with celery root, and an unusual -- and delicious -- celery-fennel salad with freshly grated parmesan and lemon juice dressing.
We ate well. And did so for quite a few days afterward. The leftovers were even better.
The roast after.