The holidays are full of traditions. Some good, some bad. Some so bad they’re good. (Folgers incestuous brother-sister Christmas commercial, anyone? YOU’RE MY PRESENT THIS YEAR, INAPPROPRIATE BROTHER.) And some of them are phenomenal. This one is simply phenomenal.
For the last 6 years, my friends J & B and I have gathered to watch Elf. We watch, exchange presents, decorate cookies and cry when Buddy saves Christmas*. BACK OFF, IT IS EMOTIONAL.
*Please note, J and I are the only ones who cry. B, being the man of the group, does what every man does when women are crying at Elf: makes fun of them for crying at Elf.
This year’s party was in J & B’s awesome new house. New house, new Elf party. Why not incorporate a new twist? Let’s add some Elf themed food.
When I told my dad about this, he assumed that that meant we’d be eating spaghetti with syrup on it. A little on the nose, Dave. But the principle was right.
J assigned each of us one of the Elf culinary staples. B got coffee (from the scene where Buddy congratulates the shitty diner on the world’s best cup of coffee), J got marshmallows (which Buddy puts on his spaghetti, along with pop tarts and other stuff), and I got maple syrup. Which was both exciting and terrifying.
I have to make another confession here on the ole blog: I don’t think I’d ever had true maple syrup before. I’m not a huge pancake fan. I’ll do a waffle from time to time, but it sure as shit better have a piece of fried chicken on top. I’ve always been drawn to the savory more than the sweet, so this may have been my first experience with maple syrup. Like, in the world.
Worst. Food. Blog. Evar.
But, I had a mission. To create an appetizer with maple syrup for our Elf party. Buddy didn’t let Santa down. And I was not going to let Santa down either. Or my friends. Since Santa was not attending this party.
I found a recipe on the Epicurious app for Very Simple Pumpkin Soup that featured maple syrup. Sidenote. The Epicurious app is an awesome cooking app, y’all. The functionality is amazing. The way I found this recipe is by searching by ingredient and then by course, weeding out the thousands of French toast recipes and only focusing on the things that were appropriate. Download the Epicurious app.
And before you ask, yeah right, Epicurious is not paying me. They’ve never even heard of me. I’ve barely even heard of me. Just a rad app for iPhone and iPad.
Anyways, this soup is good. It’s easy because you’re using canned pumpkin. And it’s a bit sweet, because of the pumpkin and the maple syrup. But the Chinese Five Spice gives it some depth and spice (….5 spices to be precise…) without being spicy. Top with sautéed shitake mushrooms and you’ve got yourself a treat even Buddy might like.
B brought the baking with a pumpernickel bread made with coffee. It was terrific. Really rich flavor and paired so well with herbed goat cheese and a creamy swiss.
And J made an elegant smores bar, inspired by her some searching on Pinterest. She stepped it up by adding some bacon. Cause bacon makes everything better. We got to toast the marshmallows in their brand new fireplace.
It was an excellent night. And now, all I want to do is make food inspired by movies. Watch Midnight in Paris and make coq au vin. Watch Ocean’s 11 and make fruits de mer. Hell, I’ll even give Silence of the Lambs a go.
CALM DOWN, JERKS.
I would make LAMB with a chianti sauce and fava bean risotto. And tiramisu. Cause it has lady fingers. PUNTASTIC!
Very Simple Pumpkin Soup, from Epicurious.com
- 2 15-ounce cans pure pumpkin
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 garlic clove, pressed | I do not have a presser of garlic. So, I minced.
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder | * A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger available in the spice section of most supermarkets. I thought I was going to have trouble finding it, but found these at Fresh Market.
- 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced | These I found at Whole Foods.
Bring first 4 ingredients to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often. Whisk in syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, and five-spice powder. Simmer soup 10 minutes, whisking often. Season with salt and pepper. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Sprinkle soup with mushrooms, dividing equally; serve.
Soup can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to simmer before serving.