Sigh. The best laid plans...
This year was the first year that we did not travel back to my hometown for Christmas, and it was kind of difficult for me. It was the right decision for a variety of reasons but it was still a challenge. I missed being with my family, and I missed having that separation, that break from the routine that has marked my Christmas for about twenty years now. Christmas has always meant not being where I always am and I didn't have that this year. This probably seems very, very strange to you, especially if you live where you grew up like the majority of people in this country, but it's a real thing. Christmas is more of a holiday, more of an enforced thing, because you can't be bogged down in your regular, mundane, day-to-day stuff. When you're in another city you can't get distracted by dishes, or laundry, or cleaning. Anyway, it's not bad it's just very different.
What I really missed most was my mother's Christmas Eve party. Christmas Day is for parents and kids and grandparents and such aunts and uncles as don't need to be elsewhere, but Christmas Eve was always more open. Anyone could show up and anyone who could possibly get away would show up, at least for an hour or two. Everyone would sit around and there would be talking and - this was the important thing - laughing so much you thought your lungs would burst. There would be food but not usually fancy food, generally pizza from Twin Trees and some cheese and crackers. I always loved Christmas Eve and as I got older I valued Christmas Eve even more. I'd see relatives and friends I might not see for the entire year otherwise, and still there would be laughing so hard I thought my lungs would burst.
I had grand plans of re-creating that here. Of course, that was kind of stupid. First of all, almost everyone here, or at least everyone in our social circle, comes from somewhere else. Most of our friends are traveling on Christmas, back with their families wherever it is that they come from. The rest of them had other plans or fell victim to the Horrible Hideous Plague that has been making the rounds of the greater Boston area. I had it. I had two definite "yes" answers: my in-laws and some of our very best friends in the whole wide world. These friends are following a Paleo diet, but the in-laws are not. I had some food for the Paleo people and I planned to have this for the people who were not observing the restrictions on cereal grains.
Then the in-laws decided not to stay for the party.
Well, our friends decided to eat the filling of the tartlets anyway, because they thought the tartlets looked that good. I was pretty happy with how they turned out at the end of the day, and even though this was a very different Christmas Eve I could not have celebrated with better people.
Smoked Salmon Tartlets (serves 6; approx. $1.05/serving)
1 double crust pie crust of your choice (I used a whole-wheat version of a family recipe; you can use what you prefer)
4 ounces smoked salmon
1/2 package chives, chopped, 6 long pieces reserved
2 cups very sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I like to use a New York cheddar whenever I can get it; I am probably a snob like that)
1 cup heavy cream
5 egg yolks
- 6 mini tart pans
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowl
- Preheat your oven to 425︒.
- Fill your tartlet pans with crust. You should have just enough to hit all 6 pans. If you like, you can paint the bottom of the crust with an egg yolk. I'm told that this makes the crust less apt to get soggy. I am not a chemist so I won't make any promises. This egg yolk is not included in the ingredient list above.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and cream until thoroughly combined.
- Mix in the cheddar.
- Reserve six attractive, good-sized flakes of salmon and chop up the rest. Mix the chopped salmon into the egg mixture. I realize that this mixes fish and dairy which is icky, but it turns out okay I promise.
- Mix in the chopped chives.
- Portion out the filling between the six tartlets.
- Lay a piece of salmon and a piece of chive on the top of each tartlet.
- Bake until done, half an hour or forty minutes.
- Serve hot or cold.