A Sweet Tradition of Cookies
It started three Christmases ago when my dear friend and colleague (Taming the Flame, Girls at the Grill) Elizabeth Karmel decided to share her then 3 year old nephew August with me. So she bought him “Rose’s Christmas Cookies” and invited me up to her sister Mary Pat’s apartment in the high 90’s—4 1/2 miles from where I live--which felt like a state away (little did I know just how far I was going to have to travel in the future) and I gave August a cookie lesson. I was hooked and so was he. August introduced me to his favorite bear and invited me to sleep over. I was sad to have to decline. He dictated a thank you note to me which I treasure. And the following year, when his parents Mary Pat and Karl moved upstate to Katonah, I was invited back.
That year, his younger brother Alexander, 2 years old, announced at the end of the day that he wanted to “have a conversation with Rose too.”
This year, baby brother Maximilian Bennett chose to be born at Christmas time so we rescheduled for Valentine’s month—August’s birthday. He was so disappointed we had to miss Christmas I promised that this time I would sleep over. I also decided that the boys should choose the cookie they wanted to bake. Interestingly, after going through the book they both chose the “Biarritz) one of the most elegant and difficult cookies in the book—in fact the only one people ever reported having difficulty preparing. (Thank goodness they didn’t choose the Nôtre Dame cookie cathedral!)
It turned out to be a great lesson in grating nuts in a food processor, beating egg whites to stiff peaks, piping batter from a bag, and their favorite part—drizzling chocolate glaze in a Jackson Pollock-type free-form design over the baked cookies.
I did loose their attention several times during the long process but in the end the cookies came out just great and they loved them. Next year I’ll choose something a little more manageable!
After the boys ate dinner and went to bed, Mary Pat made the most amazingly good dinner. Elizabeth grilled the rib steaks despite the 8 degree weather—doing her famous grill dance to keep warm. And Karl opened a very special cabernet. Mary Pat made a side dish I promptly named “Beets and Sweets” (recipe follows). The little cubes of beets glistened like jewels and the sweet potatoes were crisp on the outside, with a meltingly tender interior and lovely sweet flavor. She also roasted some cipollini onions along with the beets that gave them a delectable caramelized flavor. I got to hold baby Max.
And for dessert we had the grown up version of the Biarritz cookies—spread with a solid layer of the chocolate glaze and decorated by zigzagging the tines of a fork through them when almost set. It was all so very delicious I can hardly wait til next year!
Beets and Sweets
Remove the peel from the beets and the sweet potatoes or yams and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes. Keeping them separate to prevent the beets from coloring the potatoes, sprinkle with fine sea salt and a little extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat evenly.
Spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. for about 50 minutes, turning them occasionally so that they cook evenly. Use a wire cake tester or tooth pick to test for tenderness.