Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas Eve

We hosted Christmas Even dinner at our house this year. For dinner I wanted to do a yummy, hot appetizer and then big pot of something hot and steamy.

For our appetizer I chose the Warm Piquillo and Crab Dip that Food and Wine listed in their "Best Fast Recipes Ever" issue earlier this year. I had actually clipped this recipe years ago when it was first published in F&W, but I'd never made it because good crab meat (and piquillo peppers for that matter) is so rarely avaliable here in Mississippi. Well, I found some good quality crab meat at the new Kroger and gave this recipe a shot. Unfortunately, I didn't think it was that great. Certainly not good enough to make a "Best Ever" list. It was just bland to me. I might give it one more try and add some salt or more lemon juice.

For our main course I decided to try to make Hoppin' John Martin Taylor's Easy Shrimp Gumbo from his book The New Southern Cook. I know Ina and Martha always say never to try out a new dish on company, but I did it anyway. Hey, my guests were family, and I figured that as long as I got the roux right, it would be pretty hard to screw up shrimp, okra, sausage, and rice. I made a baked roux (as Hoppin' John suggested), and it was really pretty easy. The homemade seafood stock smelled heavenly as it simmered. The only change I made to this recipe was to add a few pounds of turkey sausage. The gumbo turned out fabulous! I highly recommend Hoppin' John's recipe (scroll down about 3/4 to bottom to find it). I'm not sure if I would call it "easy", but then again I'd never made gumbo before. It was certainly time consuming (peeling shrimp, stirring the roux, chopping the veggies, etc) but worth it in the end.

Of course it wouldn't be Christmas Eve without a little bubbly. Somehow we managed to drink three regular bottles and a magnum. Oh! And a bottle of white wine. We were on cloud nine when this photo was taken:
Quite a Merry Christmas!

Welcome to the New Year... 2009

Hard to believe it is 2009! First off, the Cotton Bowl was so much fun! Chip and I met my brother, Brian, and his wife, Jenni, and two of their friends in Dallas on New Years' Day. We went to the New Years' Day parade and then to the Ole Miss pep rally. I was really disappointed with the pep rally. Not a single player or coach gave a pep talk or anything. The band played straight through the pep songs, and that part was exciting, but I think everyone there was hoping for a little bit more.

We went to bed early on Thursday night so we could rest up for the big game. We stayed at the Adolphus Hotel, and I thought it was wonderful. Big, clean rooms, great service, and they had a delicious breakfast buffet on Friday and Saturday morning.

We took a city bus from the Pearl Street station to the Cotton Bowl. The lines were long, but moved quickly and we were at Fair Park by 11:15 AM. Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl stadium have such a traditional football feel. And if you know the Ole Miss Rebels, you know we are all about football traditions. I wish I had gotten a few more photos of the sights: the swan paddle boats, the huge Texas ferris wheel, the sky trams. All of this just added to the hype of the big game.

Jenni took our photo in front of the Cotton Bowl stadium. The Cotton Bowl game is moving to the Dallas Cowboys' big new stadium in Arlington next year. I'm sure it will be nice, but it certainly won't feel like this stadium did.

Our crew: Jenni, Lindsey, Jeremy, and Brian.

The Rebels charge the field in style!

Touchdown!! We could hardly sit down. This game was just too exciting.

Rebels celebrate their Cotton Bowl win! I wish I would have gotten a photo or video of #5 Melvin Harris do his backflip at centerfield. He is a 6' 6" freshman, and after the Egg Bowl he literally did a backflip from standing. We saw it and went wild. I hear he did it at this game too, but I totally missed it. If anyone finds a photo or video of this on youtube, please send it to me!

We got a photo from Cotton Bowl stadium overlooking the downtown Dallas skyline.

Brian and Jenni headed back to Mississippi with Jeremy and Lindsey after the game. Chip and I went to Craft. Craft is Tom Colicchio's restaurant (of Top Chef on Bravo). I wanted to dislike it, because I've never really liked him on the show, but the food was really good. All of the apps, salads, and sides were delicious.

On Saturday night, Chip and I went on a quest for awesome Tex-Mex food. At Monica's Aca y Alla, I'm not sure if we found the best food, but we certainly found the best atmosphere. Don't get me wrong - the food was fantastic. I had chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce (my favorite). But the very best thing about Monica's was the Latin Jazz band that began playing around 8:00 PM. I got a great photo of this place in action. The guitar player started a conga line, and at the end of the line one of the waiters poured a tequila shot in each participant's mouth. Now, that is a party!