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A potato gratin that innovates on tradition | Local News

A potato gratin that innovates on tradition

| Local News | Google News

LONDON – The calm of January gives me a moment to look back on the weeks that went before and make everyone’s face or queue. I’m particularly interested in traditions: how they almost surprise and surprise us, despite our mistaken assumption that we are in total control. And I can’t think of a better illustration of the fluidity of tradition, of its almost arbitrary nature, than our – and this is a great ours, all of humanity, more or less – response to recent times. .

In many cultures, family traditions have their highlight at the end of December, when we come together in groups, each with their own customs, to re-establish the circles that define us. But the colossal disruption caused by a pandemic that’s now nearly two years old has meant that nearly everyone has had to adjust their vacation plans, to some extent. (That is, if they were lucky enough to keep them.)

In my world, the tension between my idea of ​​a “big party” and the reality was most evident in the size of our gathering. My mother, niece and her husband were unable to travel from Israel to Northern Ireland, where my husband’s family lives. He was also not sure whether to invite other people at the last minute. Instead of the usual 12 or more, there were seven of us.

So we gathered around halfway by the long dining table, and between meals we played cards and took walks along the windy coast. Our two boys, the only kids in the group, spent more time on their pills than we usually tolerate, but it was just so the adults could recover from the onslaught of food and alcohol. . Our strength was not in numbers, but in the intimacy and acceptance that, yes, it is certainly not a normal Christmas, but a adjusted Christmas.

As for food, this has always been a bone of contention between me and my husband Karl, but I think we’ve achieved a pretty healthy balance between the Christmas traditions he grew up with and wants to pass on to our boys, and my natural inclination to mess everything up in the kitchen – toss ingredients in the air, so to speak, and watch where they end up.

The main holiday meal is much like what Greta, Karl’s mother, served as a child: no-fuss roast turkey; smoked ham studded with cloves and glazed with brown sugar; roasted potatoes with goose fat; simmered Brussels sprouts; roasted carrots and parsnips (although we mashed them with nutmeg and marbled them with sour cream); and a bunch of condiments and sauces.

But, in the days just before or after Christmas, there is more freedom to play with tradition. Our post-Boxing Day feast, for example, was a ramen broth made with leftover turkey and cooked with ginger, cilantro, lime leaves and chili, to be served with chunks of turkey, broccoli. Chinese (gai lan), bok choy, boiled egg, soy sauce and chili oil on the side.

In keeping with local custom (we are in Northern Ireland, after all), the potato has managed to materialize with every meal. Yet even here we found room for fluidity: we tacitly agreed to move away from the goose fat roast orthodoxy in small steps. First, we used leftovers in a variation of a Spanish omelet, spiced up a notch; then mashed with chunks of cheese from the fridge and a makeshift herb paste; and finally, a gratin similar to this one, with brown celeriac and caper butter, the aim of which was to exhaust any orphan root vegetables and all remaining herbs. When baked, it was as if the whole of Christmas was crammed into every bite.

As I packed my bags for our return to London I was trying to guess what games we were playing to pass the time and what dishes we were cooking to use the leftovers from our smallest feast would survive the pandemic as new traditions. family. But then I realized that I had no way of knowing what next Christmas would be like, or the one after, and that uncertainty has surprises in store for all of us. This isn’t necessarily a bad or a good thing: it’s just the way things are.

Recipe: Potato and Celery Root Gratin with Caper Butter

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