Monday, December 22, 2014

21 December 2014

2014 has been a very busy but very rewarding year, and while the holidays approached, I have been contemplating the irony of the old phrase "slower than Christmas." As a child, it seemed that Christmas would never get here, but as an adult, it comes to quickly. Yes, there never seems to be enough time to shop, bake, write Christmas cards or, more importantly, just take the time to visit with your friends and neighbors. Every year, I vow to do better, but it never works out that way. So the older I get, the more I realize that spending time with your family and friends is the greatest gift of all.

Over the weekend, we traveled to Eton, Georgia to visit my niece for our annual "Grant Holiday Hoedown." In years past, everyone has traveled down to my home in Canton for this festive event, but my niece gave me a break this year. While I had mixed feelings about not hosting everyone in my home, the doubts quickly subsided when everyone arrived and the mayhem ensued. Since my parents and three of my siblings passed away, our family gatherings have gotten much smaller. Now, it is just me, my younger brother and all of our wonderful nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews. Yes, we miss our loved ones who are no longer with us, especially during the holidays, but we have managed to forge our own family traditions in spite of great loss. A lot of the credit goes to the next generation, and my nieces and nephews simply amaze me. They are smart, funny, loving and accepting. As the proverbial middle child, I was independent and self sufficient from a very early age, and I was the only one who moved away from my hometown. So, I missed a lot of things in the family, but they make me feel like I didn't skip a beat when we are together. Now as the unintentional patriarch of our immediate family, I am hovering between the duality of assuming a fatherly role or maintaining the cool Uncle friend and confidant relationship. For now, it's Uncle Billy until further notice!

As with my family, I have also had to create new Christmas traditions for myself. As you can imagine, some of them are centered around food. Several years ago, I decided to make a standing rib roast for Christmas dinner, and it has become an annual event. I love to prepare the roast French style for an elegant presentation, and I use the drippings to make my favorite Christmas side dish, Yorkshire pudding. Most people are very intimidated by this dish, but it is really very easy. If you can bake muffins, you can make Yorkshire pudding. Of course, the Christmas table would not be complete without roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, marscapone mashed potatoes, and a few desserts. In addition to German Chocolate Cake, I typically bake a thin tart with the Harry and David pears I receive as gifts. This year, I added some pear and ginger marmalade to the whipped cream for a special touch, and it was delicious.

So, as another eventful year comes to a close, I stop accounting for the lack of time and pause to count my blessings instead. My life is filled with a great family and loved ones, dear friends, incredible neighbors, inspiring colleagues and an overabundance of good food. I am privileged to call Canton my hometown, and it's an honor and joy to serve the citizens in this special community. It's a wonderful life, indeed.

Merry Christmas to all.

The Christmas Menu:

- Standing Rib Roast

- Yorkshire Pudding

- Marscapone Mashed Potatoes

- Brussels Sprouts with Benton Bacon

- Salt and Pepper Cream Biscuits

- Thin Pear Tart

The Recipe – Individual Yorkshire Puddings


3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoons beef fat (drippings) from Prime Rib Roast


1. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and salt. Sift in the flour in three stages, each time whisking until flour disappears before adding in more flour. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

2. When the prime rib roast is finished, spoon out 3 tablespoons of beef fat. Turn oven to 450F.

3. Stir 1 tablespoon of the beef fat into the batter.

4. In a muffin pan, fill each cup with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining beef fat. When oven has reached temperature, place muffin pan with fat into oven for 3 minutes until smoking hot.

5. Carefully take out pan and pour batter into each cup, filling to 2/3 full. Immediately return to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open oven door during baking, or the Yorkshire Puddings will collapse. Reduce heat to 350F and bake an additional 10 minutes until golden brown.

6. Remove from oven, pierce each Yorkshire Pudding with toothpick to allow steam to escape and prevent them from collapsing.
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