In an effort to get back to the holidays basics, last week we launched this series. Each week we will be diving into the holiday plans and traditions behind our favorite foodies from around the web. This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Tim of Lottie + Doof. Are you all familiar with his site? His recipe for Peaches, Onion, and Bacon caught my eye while I was on my grilling spree this summer and I've since been hooked. His commentary is as witty as his recipes are inspired. Naturally after reading about his holiday plans and obsession with planning dinner parties, I invited myself over for dinner. I have a feeling you will do the same...
Where will you be spending the holidays this year?
We're staying home this year, which is a treat. We alternate between home and Los Angeles, where my partner's family lives. I love visiting his family and seeing friends in Los Angeles, but for this Midwestern boy the holidays are not the same without snow and cold air. Also, there is something really wonderful about not entering an airport during the holidays.
Who cooks? Is it a group effort? Does one person always do it?
I do most of the cooking at my place. I am a teensy bit (read: very) controlling when it comes to the kitchen. I take menu planning pretty seriously and usually have a theme or idea I am going for, which means if you ask what you can bring, I might send you a recipe. Luckily, my friends are good sports and will play along. But anyone who wants to help with dishes is always very welcome.
Do you enjoy cooking for large groups of people? Do you have any tips to make it less stressful?
I like cooking for medium-sized groups of people. I think 8 people is ideal. Any more than that and it becomes a real project and requires a schedule and lists and things that I am too lazy to enjoy. The tip that I wish I paid more attention to is to choose dishes that can be prepared in advance. You don't want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking when your friends and families are over. I am getting better at that and try to have most things prepared, at least partially, the day before. It really does make the dinner so much more enjoyable! Also, don't stress out about anything. It is just a meal. Nobody will remember that you forgot to make cranberry sauce or burnt the biscuits.
Are there any holiday traditions or games among your friends or family members?
My main tradition is defying tradition. I have gained a reputation for doing the unthinkable and not serving turkey on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in my favorite holiday—I love the time of year, it's secular nature, and most of what traditionally constitutes the meal. But turkey? If people liked turkey as much as they claim to on Thanksgiving, they would eat it year round. They don't. Turkey is a pain to prepare and I will take a beef tenderloin over turkey any day. So, a few years ago I cooked beef, which has become my go-to. But one year it was a lasagna and this year I am dreaming of a whole middle-eastern spread. I am not a traditionalist.
What's your go-to meal that you will be making this year?
I always make two desserts, usually one that is simple and homey and one that is a little richer and more dramatic. It offers guests a choice of how they might want to end the meal. This orange walnut cake is the perfect simple dessert and the leftovers are delicious for breakfast with a cup of coffee.
- 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ⅓ cups sugar
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons finely grated orange peel
- ½ cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place parchment paper round in bottom of pan and spray paper.
Grind walnuts in food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Combine ground walnuts, flour, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs in large bowl until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add walnut-flour mixture; then add orange juice, orange peel, and olive oil, beating just until blended. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet, and bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
Release pan sides. Carefully move cake onto platter. Sprinkle cake with confectioners sugar and serve.