December 21, 2010
It always works this way.
At the end of the year, or the end of the school year, or the beginning of vacation, I have a couple of days of pure, unadulterated elation, days full of plans: a dinner of seemingly never-ending Lebanese food, cranberry scones with lemon curd for brunch, a Christmas open house with a mariachi band, an evening full of football-watching that leaves empty bottles of wine on the counter for recycling.
But then, somewhere in there, when I’ve reached the bottom of my to-do list, I find myself feeling sad. Like really, unbelievable, out-of-nowhere, sobbing-at-the-kitchen-table sad. Because my father’s still dead. And that still really sucks.
I say this only because I know I am far from the only one for whom the holidays can be really, really hard. When you’ve lost someone—no matter how long it’s been—these days of “home for the holidays” can draw that absence up to the surface, pushing and tugging and scratching the skin. The songs, the signs, the rituals, even the cheesy Christmas commercials, all of them can trigger grief.
So check in on your friends and family, especially if they are going through the “first round” of holidays without a loved one. They may not want company, but they will, I promise, appreciate the compassion.
recipe inspired by Tom Gutting, a tall, friendly guy with a nice smile and a wine blog
You know when you eat something so good that you remember it for months afterward? And you are kind of jealous that you didn’t come up with it yourself? And every once in a while you wish you had more of it to it, right then at that very moment?
And then one day you see oyster & crimini mushrooms at the Farmers’ Market and you think “TODAY IS THE DAY! I will recreate Tom’s mushroom bruschetta!”?
No? That’s never happened to you? Curious .
I’m not sure if I did Tom’s original version justice, but what I came up with sure did taste good.
3 cups chopped mushrooms, mixed variety
2 thick slices of bacon, diced (use 3 or 4 if your bacon’s more thinly sliced)
¼ cup fresh thyme, on the stem, plus a bit more for garnish
a glug (maybe 1/8 cup?) of cognac (substitute red or white wine or sherry)
knob of butter (3-4 T)
for serving: a loaf of crusty bread (a baguette or Italian loaf would work nicely)
chevre or other soft goat’s milk cheese
Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on the amount of fat that’s rendered, you can pour some off (but don’t pour it out!—store that good stuff in a jar in the fridge, please). Reduce the heat to medium, then throw in the butter, mushrooms, and thyme, sautéing it all until the mushrooms brown.
Add the end, pour in the cognac and deglaze the pan, letting the mixture cook down until the liquid is reduced. Turn off the heat and remove the thyme stems from the pan. Stir in some freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
To assemble, slice and toast the bread. Spread generously with cheese, then top with mushroom mix. Sprinkle with reserved thyme leaves and serve.