Saturday, May 26, 2018
Cooking

Throw a Harry Potter-themed holiday party with these treats

Just once, I'd like to have a Hogwarts Christmas. Is it too much to ask for enchanted snow to fall from the ceiling of a Great Hall while we all feast on flaming Christmas pudding and mince pies? When will my suits of armor come to life and sing carols? And how long must I wait for Mrs. Weasley's homemade fudge and mince pies?

Unless our Hogwarts acceptance letters arrive by owl, it looks like we'll be celebrating yet another Christmas in the Muggle world. But we can still re-create the magic of a Hogwarts Christmas by celebrating the season, Harry Potter-style. Invite your closest friends, budding wizards and witches, and all the house-elves you know to a party that features Harry and Co.'s favorite holiday treats.

How to cook the main course (without the assistance of house-elves)

Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce . . . — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Don't worry, you won't need a hundred roast turkeys for your Christmas dinner. Since you aren't feeding an entire school full of hungry young wizards and witches, one will do just fine. But what are "platters of fat chipolatas"? Turns out, they are small savory sausages favored by the British as a side dish. We've found a recipe for chipolatas drizzled in a honey mustard glaze that's so easy to make, you won't even need a house-elf to help you.

We can't forget Harry's favorite part of the meal: the flaming Christmas pudding. (It's traditional to hide a silver sickle in the pudding, but for your dental safety — Ron's brother Percy nearly chipped a tooth — our recipe doesn't include any coins.) Topped with creme fraiche, it's no wonder Harry and Ron devoured helping after helping.

Finally, since we can't make it over to the Three Broomsticks for some butterbeer, we'll have to content ourselves with Hogwarts eggnog. Spiked with bourbon, this drink is practically bewitched. (No wonder Hagrid loves it so much.)

How to decorate (without the help of a wand)

The Great Hall looked magnificent. Not only were there a dozen frost-covered Christmas trees and thick streamers of holly and mistletoe criss-crossing the ceiling, but enchanted snow was falling, warm and dry, from the ceiling. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12

Since it's a bit hard to find magical snow at your local craft store, string up plenty of mistletoe instead. (That is how Harry received his first kiss from Cho Chang, after all.) To reproduce the picturesque atmosphere of Hogsmeade, hang a holly wreath on your door and line your dining table with lit candles. They may not be floating in enchanted trees, but they'll still add a warm glow to your gathering.

Before your guests arrive, set a Christmas cracker at each place. A traditional British party favor, these crackers are stuffed with small trinkets. You and a friend each pull one side of the cracker, until — with a loud bang! — the contents burst out for your enjoyment. Channel your inner Dumbledore and don whatever silly hat your cracker contains. (Unlike Harry, yours probably won't be filled with live mice. There are some advantages to a Muggle Christmas, after all.)

How to treat your guests (without the aid of Mrs. Weasley)

Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of home-made fudge. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Every Christmas morning, Harry wakes up to find his gifts appearing magically at the end of his bed. Would it be a Hogwarts Christmas without Mrs. Weasley's holiday parcels? Her handmade sweaters, painstakingly knitted for each of her loved ones, are a way of including Harry in the Weasley family. And each packet always contains some delightful sweet, like homemade fudge or mince pies. Mince pies are almost like small fruit tarts: They're made with mincemeat, which is a sweetened dried fruit mixture, and wrapped in flaky pastry. Serve the fudge and mince pies for dessert, or wrap them in brown paper parcels and give them, Mrs. Weasley-style, to your guests. Just like Harry, they'll feel extra loved.

How to keep your guests entertained (without caroling suits of armor)

Harry and the Weasleys spent a happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight in the grounds. Then, cold, wet and gasping for breath, they returned to the fire in the Gryffindor common room, where Harry broke in his new chess set by losing spectacularly to Ron. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Although we can't duplicate the enchantments of Hogwarts, we can still conjure up the cozy atmosphere. Since you can't take your guests outside for a snowball fight, head for a walk along the sugar sand beaches. Toast marshmallows over a fire. Play chess. Sing Christmas carols with as much merriment as Dumbledore. Open mysterious parcels that end up being magical invisibility cloaks, Firebolts or Marauder's Maps.

And if you're really lucky, maybe you'll find a Hogwarts acceptance letter under the tree.

Comments
Transform your weeknight cooking with this kitchen tool

Transform your weeknight cooking with this kitchen tool

Once upon a time, way back in the annals of home cooking, there was an era before sheet-pan suppers.In that dark age, even well-equipped kitchens did not have so much as a single professional sheet pan, let alone the two or three deemed indispensable...
Published: 05/23/18
Up your homemade smoothie game with these tips

Up your homemade smoothie game with these tips

You could head to your neighborhood juice shop and order a $7 or $8 smoothie. Blending your own, however, is not only easier on your wallet, but you can customize to your heartís content and make several batches at a time.Whether youíre making a nutr...
Published: 05/23/18
Vanilla is complex, even smoky, and may be a bakerís best friend

Vanilla is complex, even smoky, and may be a bakerís best friend

By Kim OdeSomewhere along the line, vanilla became synonymous with bland or ordinary.Which is just plain wrong.Blame it on a world of Chubby Hubby ice cream and Candy Cane Oreos, where "more" sounds like "better," where fake flavors bolster profits.I...
Published: 05/23/18
I tried making restaurant-quality braised short ribs at home

I tried making restaurant-quality braised short ribs at home

One of my 2018 cooking resolutions was to cook at least 10 things this year that I never have before. Somewhere near the top of my list was short ribs. You can hardly eat at a restaurant now without seeing short rib in some form on the menu: braised,...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Lavender is almost as pretty to smell as it is to look at, but as far as taste goes, the results arenít always as appealing. A little like cilantro, lavender can taste soapy to some people, making it a tricky plant to use properly. But, when used the...
Published: 05/22/18
Taste test: new (and very sugary) cereals

Taste test: new (and very sugary) cereals

My addiction to sugar began as a child. I loved sugary breakfast cereals as a morning meal or an evening snack, the sweeter the better. We used to joke in my house that I even added table sugar to Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. Thankfu...
Published: 05/21/18
Five ideas for sleep-friendly midnight snacks

Five ideas for sleep-friendly midnight snacks

When the clock strikes midnight, I reach for the cookie jar. Okay, maybe itís not an actual jar ó maybe Iím even lazier, and I reach for the cardboard box of chocolate chip cookies I bought from the store. The point is, my late-night snack habits are...
Updated one month ago
Exploring alternative tea drinks to toast Prince Harry and Meghan Markleís royal wedding

Exploring alternative tea drinks to toast Prince Harry and Meghan Markleís royal wedding

The year was 2011. It was the night before Prince Williamís wedding to Kate Middleton, and I stood in my kitchen making chocolate chip scones. I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m., with plans to sit in the spare bedroom of the townhome and watch Britainís ro...
Published: 05/15/18
Taste test: pineapple juice

Taste test: pineapple juice

Having always loved a fresh pineapple stick in my brewed iced tea, I wondered recently if a splash of pineapple juice would give it the same sweet kick. While few of us drink pure pineapple juice, our panelists definitely enjoy an occasional watered-...
Updated one month ago
Branch out: Give Sauteed Asparagus in Soy Sauce Glaze a try

Branch out: Give Sauteed Asparagus in Soy Sauce Glaze a try

Asparagus is by far the favorite vegetable of my family. I can serve nearly 3 pounds of asparagus a couple of times a week to my family of six, and my girls will still argue over who gets the last stalk. I say this not to impress you with the adventu...
Updated one month ago