When it comes to the holidays, I'm a huge stickler for tradition. I always cook fish on Thanksgiving. I always make a shopping trip to San Francisco in the days leading up to Christmas, even if I don't need anything. Despite the fact that my parents have long ago upgraded their tree, my Christmas tree is still this old fake one that doesn't even look like a tree, carted by hand by my grandfather decades ago all the way from Taiwan and decorated with pipe-cleaner ornaments that I made in kindergarten or with ones that I've received as presents throughout the years. Even the star on top of the tree is an old, taped-together end of a fairy wand that I used to have as a kid. I firmly believe that tradition gives things character and whimsy, and they let you enjoy just a tinge of comforting nostalgia at the end of every year.
Another Christmas tradition that I always had was waking up in the morning and practicing piano before opening presents--granted, this started out more as a forced lesson in discipline imparted by my parents than a "tradition," but over the years, it grew into part of my Christmas morning routine. But, after I moved away and my piano moved with me, I can no longer wake up on Christmas morning in my parents' house and play before the day gets started. So, I've since replaced that musical tradition with a food one: Christmas morning pancakes.
Each year, I ask my dad a few days before Christmas what kind of pancakes he'd like, and the answer is always "blueberry." While there's nothing wrong with blueberry pancakes, I decided this year that we need a little creativity, so this is what I'm planning on making come Christmas morning: cranberry nutmeg pancakes with meyer lemon curd and warmed cranberries.
I knew that I wanted to make something with meyer lemons, because I always regard meyer lemons as nature's little Christmas gift to me--they show up right before the holidays and mark the beginning of my favorite citrus seasons: meyer lemons and, shortly thereafter, blood oranges. Then, I've sort of been fascinated by cranberries as of late whenever I've been in the kitchen, transforming them into everything from cranberry sauces and cranberry bavarians to cranberry savory dishes. Plus, they seemed like a natural stand-in for blueberries to appease my dad: round little colorful fruits in his pancakes. Together, I love how the sweetness of the meyer lemon curd complements the tart bursts of the fresh cranberries perfectly. Since it's usually cranberry sauce that's sweet and lemons that are sour, this role reversal is a fun variation for the taste buds. And, can I mention how Christmas-y the bright red cranberries look?!
Anyways, I hope that you are all having sweet and wonderful holidays and enjoying your traditions, both old and new (make sure to tell me about them in the comments below!)! Here's wishing you a fantastically merry Christmas, an awesome winter solstice, and a happy everything else in between!
Read on for recipe...
[previous Pancake of the Week: Chai pancakes with black tea-poached plums]
Cranberry-Nutmeg Pancakes with meyer lemon curd and warmed cranberries
makes ~12-15 silver dollar pancakes
8 oz. whole milk
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tspn vanilla extract
8 oz. AP flour
1 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbspn packed dark brown sugar
2 tspn baking powder
1 tspn salt
1. Combine the milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract and whisk thoroughly.
2. Add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
3. Slice some of the cranberries in half and combine in batter. Reserve the others.
4. Oil lightly a medium hot skillet and cook the pancakes.
5. After the pancakes are done cooking, place the remainder of the whole cranberries into the skillet over medium hot heat. Cook the cranberries, rolling them around in the pan, until their skins have burst and they are soft. Remove from heat.
6. Serve pancakes with meyer lemon curd (recipe below) and warmed cranberries.
Meyer Lemon Curd
adapted from David Lebovitz's Improved Lemon Curd recipe
1/2 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
65-70 gr sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
6 Tbspn butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
zest of 2-3 lemons, freshly grated
1. Prepare a fine mesh strainer over a bowl.
2. In saucepan over low heat, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolk, egg, salt, and cut butter. Cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a spatula, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3. Immediately remove the lemon curd from heat and strain through the prepared sieve. Mix in the freshly grated lemon zest. Allow the curd to cool completely.