There are so many reasons to smile.
It may be warm-weathered holiday season, but the holiday season is here nonetheless! Californians love their holidays, and I'm loving that almond milk eggnog is now a thing. I've been celebrating the increased cheer with late morning hikes alongside Kaitlyn, raw doughnuts at the yoga studio, turkey handprints with the boys, and explosions of cozy cooking. I've found that apple cider kombucha and champagne make an exceptional cocktail and have learned that the gypsy cat outside of my apartment is named Phinneaus. He's really digging the sunlight.
Seasonal cuisine encourages us to explore our kitchens. November and December are the months where even the most culinary-shy bust out their grandmother's cookbooks and a deep-fryer for an experimental turkey recipe. Cooking is expected, so we often dare to try new things.
As a junior at JMU, roasting a turkey was a new and terrifying thing. I gave it a shot, and specifically remember crying and holding a meat thermometer in the closet-sized kitchen of my college home. My seven roommates and I had offered to host the theatre-kids Thanksgiving, and I promised that if everyone gave me money I would make them a legit, skin-on, stuffing-stuffed, TURKEY. It seemed no different than roast chicken, and I just really wanted to play hostess. What I didn't anticipate was the two-day defrost period, and learned this little fact about 12 hours before my house was raided with hungry, and often stoned, theatre kids.
After a quick meltdown and a consultation with the internet, I found a method that would safely defrost the turkey as long as I was constantly around to change the water every 30 minutes. I skipped all my classes, turned on Netflix, and made myself comfy in the kitchen. I was also a vegetarian at the time, and so yanking the gizzards and guts from the bird's interior required opening a bottle of wine. Thankfully, the turkey came out and no one had food poisoning, but I have yet to make a turkey since.
Instead, I just make lots and lots of popcorn.
Anyone who has spent more than a day with me understands my affinity for popcorn. On average, I replace two meals a week with a big bowl of the stuff. While it's great anytime of year, this batch is especially perfect for this dip into the holiday season. The rosemary lays like fallen pine trees, and fills the kitchen with an aroma that requires knit blankets and massive snuggling.
Here in Los Angeles, it will serve as road trip food for Kaitlyn and I as we drive (topdown!!!) to Slovang for a Dutch-and-Wine-Country Thanksgiving with David and the rest of the Ballantine clan (but more on that later). For now, I'll leave you with a recipe for this simple and delicious snack. You can offer it up as pre-Turkey Day munchies, during holiday movie night (HOME ALONE, I repeat, HOME ALONE), or feed it to someone special. Back in Virginia, I made when it snowed, drank it with a glass of something bubbly, and watched the black sky illuminate above the newly white ground. And I smiled.
Stovetop popcorn with rosemary-infused olive oil
1 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rosemary-infused oil
1 cup olive oil
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
To make the oil: combine the olive oil and rosemary in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the oil to cool to room temperature. Remove the sprigs and set aside.
Stir the popcorn and kernels and 1/2 cup of the oil in a large, heavy pot. Cover and cook over medium heat until all the kernels have popped, shaking the pot throughout the cooking process to prevent the kernels from burning. Transfer the popcorn to a large serving bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve.
Thanks to Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis for this recipe!