Have you ever heard of anybody losing a friendship because the Christmas meal wasn't what it should have been? Did all heck break loose at your house because somebody had the temerity to bring a side dish nobody really liked? Perhaps you suffered through a great family schism which resulted from some overly dry Christmas cookies or a failed dessert?
The truth is no meal is all that important so why do we panic and stress out. You don't? Then why do I?
Is it because I want everything to be, um .... perfect?
Perfect. Bah. I have been listening around you these days and I am somewhat surprised to discover that the word doesn't actually mean anything anymore. It seems as if the meaning of "perfect" has devolved and now is used as a simple acknowledgement instead of the adjective it once was.
Last week the girl at my dry cleaners asked me when I wanted to pick up my clothes. I told her Tuesday and she replied: "perfect." Now I'm sure Tuesday is a great day but it is not as good as Saturday so it is clearly not "perfect".
The very same day I ordered an iced tea at lunch and the waitress said, "perfect". Soup or Salad? "Salad". "Perfect". I wish these were isolated incidents but they aren't. Have you noticed it too?
It sounds as if "perfect" is the new "ok" and if this is the case it is going to be very liberating when it comes to planning menus and making entertainment choices.
I wish I had realized this last week when I was asked to bring a side dish to the now-annual Table Set Christmas Party gathering in Los Angeles. My friends Greg, Andy, and Nathan (they are the hosts of the very entertaining The Table Set podcast) asked a few of their friends to join in the fun and bring a dish to their annual holiday party. (You can join their podcast fun easily by subscribing on iTunes.)
Naturally, I wanted to bring "the perfect side dish" and I felt the pressure immediately. When your favorite food bloggers ask you to bring a dish to an event attended by the rest of your favorite food bloggers it can give you pause. And boy did I pause! (I hate it when I pause.)
Then I remembered these "South of Francy" type sweet and sour pearl onions that graced our family's holiday table back in the day. These really are perfect and I mean perfect in the old sense.
Good hot or cold and everywhere in between. Plate them or put them on a buffet (which is what we did at the Table Set party). They are good with beef, lamb, chicken or fish and if I must say so, they were the perfect thing to serve next to the lovely turkey sandwich rolls with fig ketchup the Table Set boys had put out on the table. These onions are gluten-free, vegan, and don't even contain nuts. You can even make them the night before and if you use frozen onions they are even more easy, er, I mean perfect. (And don't tell me that having one side dish out of the way the night before a holiday dinner isn't perfect.)
My photos of this dish come courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers Josie of Daydreamer Desserts who was at the party as well and was a lot smarter than I was that night (She actually remembered to bring a camera!) I have learned a lot about food photography and blogging from her these past few months. You can check out the amazing Macrarons she brought to the party here. She's promised to teach me how to make them in 2012 so stay tuned!
- 3 cups small white onions
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 chopped tomato
- 6 Tablespoons currants
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon thyme
Drop the onions into a pot of boiling water and cook for one minute. Drain the onions, peel them and return to the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes or until the onions are tender. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and continue cooking the liquid at a boil until it is syrupy. Return the onions and cool.
You can use frozen pearl onions to save time (and if you want a smaller onion for, oh, serving on a buffet plate). Add the sauce ingredients to saucepan and cook down to a syrup before adding the frozen onions. Then continue cooking the mixture until the onions warm through. Cool and serve.
|I shouldn't have worried...|