At Home & Living
Parent Chefs Share a Fine Holiday Table
Editor's Note: This story originally ran in December, 2011.
All year long, Donna Moodie is the warm public face of Marjorie, the busy restaurant that she recently moved from Belltown to Capitol Hill.
When the December holidays come, Moodie’s focus is still on food – but this time at home. The days around Christmas are a rare chance for her to enjoy a table for two, just for herself and 11-year-old son Max. “We focus on a lot of our favorite meals that take a little extra time to prepare and some special ingredients … and spend a lot of the time just relaxing and cooking.”
The big holiday delights are the same for most chefs and restaurateurs as for most others – family and food. Sometimes, though, they have a different take on those themes.
Thierry Rautureau, chef-owner of four star fine-dining restaurant Rover’s, opened a more casual bistro this year, Luc, named in honor of his late father. One of his favorite memories of his childhood in France, Rautureau recalled, was going with his father to dig oysters at the low equinox tide before the holidays. They would haul as many as they could carry back in an old potato sack, storing them on the dirt floor of their wine cellar for a fresh supply on the half shell all the way through New Year’s Eve.
In Seattle, with wife Kathy and his own two sons (the elder is at the University of Hawaii, the younger attends Garfield High), the family lunches with friends on Dec. 24, then stays home in the evening with treats like rice pudding and hot cocoa and board games. Christmas morning, Rautureau might serve a simple breakfast of omelets or scrambled eggs, pastries or cake. The rest of the day is “snacky” and celebratory – “really, that’s a day when we drink Champagne and have caviar.”
Chef Jason Wilson of Crush, winner of the 2010 James Beard Award for best chef in the Northwest, joins wife Nicole to trim their tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving, serving cider spiced with cinnamon, clove, orange and cardamom to 4-year-old son Ferrin. Everyone that day munches on spiced pears, sea-salted potatoes with aioli, and mac and cheese – mac and cheese with Dungeness crab and bacon, that is, which Ferrin’s been enjoying since he was a toddler
Traditions are entering a second generation with Leslie Mackie, owner of Macrina Bakery. The time around Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for Mackie, but her parents always come up from Portland for Thanksgiving weekend, and they all bake cookies with Mackie’s daughter, 11-year-old Olivia.
Olivia began that baking tradition at 4 or 5 (in those early years, she was most captivated by sampling the sugar toppings) – but Mackie said she and her sister have made the cookies with their mother as far back as she can remember.
There are always a few new experiments – this year it’s lefse and a cornmeal sesame seed cookie called cumeri – and always some traditional ones like angel thumbprints and Mexican wedding cookies.
Want to start your own cooking tradition this year? Mackie, Rautureau, Moodie, and Wilson generously shared some of their favorite holiday recipes with Seattle’s Child.
Mexican Wedding Balls
1 ½ cups whole almonds
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Scatter almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast on center rack of oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool, then finely chop and set side.
Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix another 5-7 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and pale in color. Add vanilla extract and mix about 30 seconds, making sure vanilla is fully incorporated. Remove bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides.
Place almonds and flour in a medium bowl and toss together. Using a rubber spatula, fold half the dry ingredients in the bowl of batter. After the first batch is fully incorporated, fold in the other half and continue folding until all of the dry ingredients have been absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop small amounts of dough out of the bowl (Mackie uses a small ice cream scoop) and roll the dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart, pressing down lightly to create a flat bottom on each cookie.
Bake on center rack of oven, 1 sheet at a time, for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies just start to color. To help the cookies bake evenly, rotate the baking sheet every 3 minutes or so. Let the cookies cool slightly on the baking sheet and then toss them in powdered sugar. Lay the sugar-coated cookies on a clean baking sheet to finish cooling. Finally, after the cookies are fully cooled, toss them in powdered sugar once again. They can be stored in an airtight container up to one month at room temperature.
– Leslie Mackie, Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook
Dungeness Crab Mac ‘N’ Cheese with Bacon
1 lb. large macaroni or ziti
¼ lb. bacon, diced small
1 lb. fresh Dungeness crab meat (frozen-thawed is fine too)
1 small yellow onion, small diced (yields roughly ½ cup)
½ cup fresh heavy cream
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 to ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a medium sauce pot on medium low heat, simmer the bacon until it begins to brown. Remove bacon when it is rendered of its fat and slightly crisp, add the onions to the pan and simmer until they are translucent. Stir often.
Pour the onions and rendered bacon fat in a bowl together with the butter and salt. Add the cream and two cheeses to the pan and bring to a simmer, whisk the mixture well to incorporate the cheeses and pour them into the bowl with the onions. Crumble cooked bacon into mixture and stir.
Squeeze the crab meat gently over a different bowl to remove any excess water from it. Gently mix in the crab meat to the cheese-bacon mix.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blanch the pasta in boiling salted water to cook it three-quarters of the way. Strain the water from the pasta and pour into the “sauce” bowl, gently mix all ingredients and pour them into a baking dish (Pyrex, earthenware or cast iron are all fine).
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, remove from the oven and serve warm.
– Recipe courtesy of Jason Wilson.
Kathy’s Rice Pudding
1 cup cooked rice
3 cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup dark raisins
½ cup maple syrup
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Fill a large rectangular Pyrex dish about half way with hot water, and place in the oven.
In a saucepan, slowly bring milk to a boil. Meanwhile, mix together the rice, raisins, maple syrup and eggs in a large bowl. When the hot milk is ready, slowly and gently whisk it into the rice mixture, adding one ladleful at a time.
Pour the pudding into a 2-quart round Pyrex dish. Top with a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Place it in the hot water bath in the large rectangular Pyrex. Bake for 55 minutes until firm.
Let cool, then enjoy!
– Recipe courtesy of Kathy Rautureau
1 box pasta (Max and Donna prefer cavatappi, shells, rigatoni or penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup butter (½ for béchamel, ½ for croutons)
½ cup flour
1 quart whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 lb. grated cheese (they prefer raw milk cave-aged gruyere)
½ loaf crusty white bread, cubed (ciabatta works great)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
To make croutons, melt ¼ cup butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the cubed bread in the mixture. Bake on a sheet tray for 10-15 minutes, until cubes are light golden-brown. When croutons are done, remove from oven and turn oven up to 375 degrees.
Cook pasta to an al dente texture (not too soft, so it still has some
bite). Drain it, salt to taste, and toss in the olive oil. Set aside.
On stovetop, melt 1/4 cup butter. Add ½ cup flour, stirring
continuously until pasty. Heat milk until hot but not boiling; slowly
whisk into butter-flour mixture. Stir in the two teaspoons salt, cook on stovetop for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, and set aside. This is the béchamel sauce.
In a casserole dish, toss noodles, béchamel, and cheese. Top with
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, covered. Remove the cover and cook
15 minutes more.
Serve 8-10 as a side dish, 4-6 as a main dish.
– Recipe courtesy of Donna Moodie.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ lb. butter, room temperature
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups bittersweet chocolate chips
In a small bowl, sift flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy and well
incorporated. Add eggs and mix well (1 minute). Add vanilla, mix well (30
seconds). Add flour mixture, mix to blend (four 15-second pulses).
Add oatmeal and mix to blend (four 15-second pulses).
Stir in chocolate chips.
Roll into logs that are 1.5 inches in diameter, and wrap tightly in
plastic. Refrigerate until chilled.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic, cut into slices ½-inch thick.
Bake 7-9 minutes on a sheet tray.
Makes 2-3 dozen depending on cookie size. Wrapped dough will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator or a month in the freezer.
– Recipe courtesy of Donna Moodie.