December 26, 2008

Remembering Mo...

My father would have been 81 years old today.

And while I didn't learn nearly as much about cooking and baking as I could have or should have from him, he remains one of my primary inspirations in the kitchen.

Those of you who've been here a while know that John and I host a gala open house the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year. What started as our housewarming party in 2000 has evolved into an annual tradition we're proud to say is a must-attend event on many of our friends' calendars. What most people don't realize is that the whole open house concept wasn't mine but my father's.

Mo hosted his annual open house on December 26 -- though only a handful of his guests knew the significance behind the date. Like we do, he invited friends from all aspects of his life, and did nothing to coordinate introductions. And like our open house, it worked. People mingled, discovered surprise connections with other guests, and often in the process we learned new things about our friends. The only place we stray from Mo's model is that our menu is built on appetizers and finger food -- because growing up that's what *I* wanted to contribute to his menu and he insisted appetizers were a waste of everyone's appetite for the "real food."

So the BIG open house in my childhood home happened at Christmas time. But my father opened his home and his kitchen to his friends on a smaller scale on a weekly basis. Over the years Maude and Dick, Lou and Maria, Carol and Ken, Neal, John and Ruth, Henri, Lorraine, Donna, Julie, Bob and Joanne had standing invitations to dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. And most of them occupied a regular spot at the dining room table.

While John's and my weekend social life tends to be more outwardly focused (with three weekends in four often dedicated to dance events), we're looking at 2009 as an opportunity to entertain on a smaller scale.

And what better date to launch a new tradition than Mo's birthday???

So we put together a simple but satisfying menu and celebrated a belated Christmas with some of our dance friends. We built the menu around a main course I found over at Closet Cooking: Maple and Chipotle Roasted Turkey Breast. Our protein was pork tenderloin because I couldn't find a whole turkey breast at any of my regular marts of trade. On the side we served Warm Leek Salad with bounty from the CSA box, a simple spinach salad sprinkled with dried cranberries and walnuts, and Cooking Light's Colonial Corn Pudding. For dessert we offered a tray of Dorie Christmas Cookies.

We ate. We drank. We enjoyed each other's company.

I like to think Mo would have been proud.

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