I spent Christmas with a family in La Junta. Lillian, the woman who keeps everything running smoothly around here by cleaning and helping in the kitchen, felt bad that I had nobody to spend Christmas with, so she invited me over to have dinner with her family. Since last year I had a Christmas dinner and we ate at about 2:30PM, I was a little worried when at around 8:30 she still hadn’t picked me up. I thought that maybe I had said that I was going to walk to their house, which would be bad since I didn’t know where it was. Lillian (at the head of the table in the pic below) came and picked me up, and then I sat around in their living room, since we didn’t start eating dinner until 10!
Dinner was delicious, there was a lot of great food including a salad that was a cross between coleslaw and guacamole, different kinds of salsa, and some meat. I made a lemon-poppy seed pound cake that was a hit.
A few hours and many glasses of wine later, I was surprised when they started to open presents, but I guess that’s how they do it down here. Many items were received, and one of the kids got an “MP34” player. I was stoked when Lillian handed me a beautiful handmade basket. I thought it was awesome that she even thought to get me anything, let alone spend time to make something handmade. At this point we had moved on to scotch and, my first real day of work being tomorrow, decided I had to go to bed. I got to sleep around 2, and the next day I heard they all went out dancing and didn’t get in until 4:30! It’s hard for me to picture where they would do that, in this town of 500 people, but hopefully there will be another holiday sometime and I’ll be able to go with them.
Then, of course, the guests arrived the next afternoon. I had been cooking and baking a lot, trying to stock up the kitchen before everyone arrived. We cooked up a storm this week and the days were long, but fun. We make breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I’m up at 6 and working until the kitchen is clean, which can be as late as 10. For breakfast there’s always a sweet dish, like coffeecake, as well as a hot dish, like pancakes or waffles. We also do eggs to order, bacon, and sausage. So for about an hour the kitchen turns into a short-order restaurant. Then we make and pack lunches that the guests eat on the river, and either take a break or start right into prepping dinner or things for tomorrow. For dinner, we’ve made some great stuff. One night we made homemade cheese-filled ravioli, which was delicious. We also served a fish of the region called Congrio with risotto and a roasted tomato sauce.
Last night was the Lamb Asado that some of you have heard about. It’s the guests’ last night, so it’s kind of a celebration. For appetizers I made thin-crust pizzas that were excellent. 1. Roasted tomato, spinach, and parmesan. 2. Salami, onion, and green olive. 3. Bacon, blue cheese and carmelized onion. 4. Green Pepper, red pepper, and onion. It was fun throwing around some pizzas and I’m looking forward to improving my pizza game over the next few months. The oven here has a stone bottom, so we roll the pizzas on Silpats and then cook them right on the stone, so the cheese browns on top and the crust gets crispy on the bottom.
Then we move down to the barbecue house, which is down a hill closer to the river, where Christian, the main administrator and manager after Frans and Anna, has been barbecuing a whole lamb and slowly basting it with Chimichurri sauce for the last several hours. There are plenty of salads on the table, grilled potatoes, fresh bread, and plenty of wine. And Crepes Suzette for dessert. All in all, a delicious end to the week.
Now I have a few days off before it all starts again next week…