Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nochebuena - The Countdown

In Spain, Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena (The Good Night). One day, when I have more time, I'll research the reason for the name. Perhaps it came about from the delicious foods that are eaten. Maybe because it is a night of good wishes and warm feelings. Whatever the reason, it is a special night for a Spaniard, in a sense similar to what Thanksgiving is for Americans: the family gets together, turkey is usually involved, lots of cooking...

We are hosting a small dinner party for Nochebuena. A group of friends will come over and we will drink, eat and exchange gifts. We wanted the menu to be primarily Spanish. On Friday I prepared this red cabbage soup, fried the bread stars (mine look far less professional than the ones on the photo: I cut mine freehand), and even practiced the feathered cream touches on top. Lombarda, or red cabbage, is something that I associate with the holidays, perhaps because I don't remember seeing it at home at any other time of the year. This is the first time I make this soup. This recipe is a keeper.

My husband is in charge of the main course, leg of lamb. I am not sure how he will make it, but as a lover of all things Spanish he will probably stick to rosemary and garlic. I believe he is planning on serving it with Brussel sprouts and this delicious sweet potato puree with braised leeks, which has been already made. One less thing to worry about tomorrow.

For the dessert, I will make warm chocolate pudding cakes with caramel sauce again, because they were such a smashing hit last time. I cheated somewhat, though, in that I bought some Mexican cajeta in one of the multiple supermarket forays we did today. Making caramel, one less thing to do.

No Nochebuena would be complete without some turrón. In the same supermarket where I got the cajeta, I found Turrón El Almendro, which is such a quintessential brand. What a surprise!

I took care of a few last-minute details, like decorating the windows with junkmail snowflakes. From the street, at night, they look magical. During the day they give interesting shadows. It gives me such pleasure to create something so pretty out of something so humble. I learned how to make them here.

I also made some Epsom salt luminaries out of empty jam and olive jars. On Friday I ran around like crazy, and by the time the lighting outside was good for a photo, I was on my third supermarket trip, so this is all I got of the process. Luckily, this tutorial will show you how to make them. My luminaries will light our dinner table.

I still have to make a mushroom compound butter, wrap a couple more gifts, sweep the floors, load a Christmas playlist on the iPod... I better go to bed.

I hope you have a wonderful Nochebuena!


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