Bonus Newsletter: Holdiay Cookies

For those who love to bake (also a good lobster salad story)...

In my early blogging days, my friend and erstwhile assistant, Emilia Juocys, asked to do some writing on my site about holiday cookies. I said, sure, because the fact is, I’m not a cookie baker.

Years hence I found myself quarantining in a loft in Providence with a wonderful wife who is very much a cookie baker. And the other morning I entered the kitchen to the intoxicating and calming smell of cookies fresh from the oven. I live with the Gilmore Girls; if you know them you know the line “It smells like snow”—see final link!) What I thought when I entered the kitchen was, “It smells like the holidays.”

And these confetti cookies from Smitten Kitchen were so, well, happy looking as well, I had to write about holiday cookies with some links from others and some from my site, thanks to chef and cook Emilia (protegé of Brian Polcyn, btw). These are my favorites (Deb Perlman’s recipe here), and I love how even the bottoms are confetti celebrations.

My beloved also made fabulous Cherry Pistachio Biscotti, so excellent for dipping in morning coffee, from the redoubtable Ina Garten. Some of the best biscotti I’ve had.

Quick Ina interlude: Ina is an amazing creature. I had the great good fortune to interview her on a couple of stages and I loved her stories about how she, a cooking neophyte and former political D.C. wonk, opened her Barefoot Contessa in the Hampton’s. Best story: She made something like 20 pounds of lobster salad in her first days in business. And when she did the math she realized she’d have to charge an eye-bulging price per pound to make any money on it all. She thought, “Oy, no one will ever pay that.”

No one did. As the day was nearing the end, though, a man entered her shop. He did want that lobster salad, kept staring at. Shook his head and said the price out loud incredulouslly. Ina surely sighed. At long, long last, the man said, “I’ll take it.” Astonished, Ina said, “How much would you like?

All of it,” he said. And so The Barefoot Contessa began.

I love that story.

But cookies! Ann loves to bake them so much, she bakes them for everyone and found these great boxes in which to deliver them!

Ann loves Mexico so next up were Mexican Wedding Cookies, aka Polvorones. Polvo means dust, and these are dusted in sugar and turn to light airy sweet dust on the palate.

Delicious! Here’s the recipe from Food 52, which I can totally vouch for.

Here’s a plate of them that we get to keep. All excellent. Confetti, polvorones, Ina’s biscotti and at bottom are Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies. (Fabulous. I’m going to go get one now.) Dorie is, of course, renowned for her baking, her books, her columns in the NYTimes Magazine. But she is also one of the sweetest people I know—is this what baking does to the soul? Or is the sweet soul drawn to baking. (I hope the former, where I’m concerned—not being drawn to baking. Drawn to bakers, though, yes!)

Here are some other great cookies to consider from Emilia, a cookie fiend, with links to printable versions. The ones she did this week are kiflis, eastern European cookies stuffed with nuts and raisins.

They are not just nutty lemony crispy delights, but, she texted me, “They make me miss my family.” Missing of course is bittersweet, so let’s focus on the sweet for now.

Other great cookies from Emilia (a link to all these printable recipes here):

  • Langues de chat, cat’s tongue, the classic French cookie perfect for a snack or tea time, click here for link and printable recipe.

  • Mayan chocolate cookies—a cookie version of a Mexican mole, the something different than the typical gingerbread cookie, click here for link and printable recipe.

  • Cardamom ginger cookies with coconut—an aromatic morsel spiced with cardamom, coriander and crystalized ginger. click here for link and printable recipe.

  • Gluten-free linzer cookies. Keep it nutty and jam it up with this gluten-free holiday cookie, a cookie raspberry jam sandwich!

  • Sour cream sugar cookies, must-have cookie to have on any holiday or special occasion, a cookie artist’s canvas.

  • Spiced pecan thumbprints with Cajeta, gooey goat’s milk caramel thumbprint cookie with a Mexican twist.) 

    And what to drink with those cookies …

Every year, I post about aged eggnog, and it really benefits from 30 to 300 days of aging. So many people have asked me for a recipe they can do right now. I have done an eggnog on the fly for two, it’s easy, but our favorite eggnog comes from our neighbor Tripp Evans, esteemed author of the biography Grant Wood: A Life and professor of art history. When he’s not making mischief, he’s making cookies and boiled custard and eggnog which come from his grandmother Ga-Ga. Ga-Ga, Tripp says,

Helen Pate Mann Durham [1900-1998] was like Carol Channing, Auntie Mame, and Blanche DuBois all mixed together.  A throwback to a much earlier generation of Southern women, she was the youngest child of older parents (both born in the 1850s), raised in Amelia County, Virginia, outside of Richmond.  I think the egg nog recipe was her mother's. Ga-Ga was a terrible cook (because she had a cook), but she loved making three things: egg nog, boiled custard, and brown-edged raisin cookies.  She was a fiercely competitive bridge player and frugal clothes horse (she wore the same Ferragamo alligator pumps her entire adult life, and was buried in them).  

And, he says, she threw one helluva party.

I’ll put a printable recipe on my site but I’m going to reprint it here verbatim, because this is how a recipe ought to be written. Pay attention to the verbs. Notice you get a genuine personality emanating from the recipe. Thanks, Tripp!

  • Separate thirteen eggs, put egg whites in the fridge.

  • To the yolks, add thirteen soup spoons of sugar and whisk together.

  • Sloooooowly at first, add two cups of bourbon, stirring constantly  (yolks will “cook” if the liquor surprises them too fast.  Afterward, okay to go faster).

  • Then add two cups of dark rum (we use Mount Gay).

  • Then add one cup of brandy.

  • Place mixture in fridge overnight, allow liquor & eggs to become acquainted.

Step 2 (day of serving it)

  • Pour the egg/liquor mixer through a strainer into punch bowl.

  • To this, add a tall (32 oz.) container of half and half – stir/combine.

  • Whip the reserved egg whites until stiff, and fold into the mixture (use punch ladle to gently dunk the whites under the surface until combined).

  • Whip a small thing of whipping cream (16 oz.) until stiff, fold into mixture using same process.

  • Top with nutmeg and put back in fridge until time to serve.

  • Once you serve it, the cream/whites may need another minor dunking if any rises to the surface.

Now that’s a recipe—and delicious.

What we’re watching…

We watched the Happiest Season last night and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite its problems. Mackenzie Davis, an actress I loved in Halt and Catch Fire is one of the protagonists, but she is so awful to her beloved it’s hard to maintain the sympathy we want to feel for a woman who fears if she comes out to her parents, she lose their love. But again, a pleasure to watch.

On our list and highly recommended from our actor and theater company director, Ann’s son Sam, we will be watching A Bad Moms Christmas, The Holidate, Four Chirstmases, Office Christmas Party and Noel (and perhaps a late night view of Bill Bob Thornton in Bad Santa for me and Sam).

And of course, It’s a Wonderful Life, just me and Ann, an outdoor viewing, with dinner at the Weekaupaug Inn, in Westerly, RI.

And what better clip to end on …

The aforementioned Lorelei Gilmore: “I smell snow…. My favorite time of the year. The whole world changes color…