‘Tis The F#%@ing Season

Tonight marked the beginning of the Christmas season.

For me it is and will always be “Christmas”.  If you’re offended by the word “Christmas” then you came to the wrong place.  Of course if you’ve been keeping up with my blog then you probably know that already.

I probably shouldn’t be writing tonight.  Since I stopped taking “mood elevating” medication about six weeks ago I’ve been particularly ornery, and I don’t seem to care who knows it.

Tonight was the first of two installments of The Madrigal Feast at Arkansas State.  If you’re unfamiliar (I was until 3 years ago), the Madrigal Feast is a Christmas tradition set with food and song in a Medieval theme.  The choral department here at ASU puts it on every year for 2 or 3 consecutive nights (2 this year), for about 150 people each night.

Choral students dress in period costumes and parade around the room singing songs, serving the food that we prepare, and spreading general merriment.  At one point there is the spectacle of a boar’s head that is circulated around the room signaling the coming feast.

Turns out the boar’s head is a Madrigal tradition!  I had been thinking that it had something to do with the Razorbacks (we’re the Red Wolves here at ASU).

This year’s menu was a lovely (if not ubiquitous) salad of Mixed Baby Greens with Dried Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, and Feta Cheese followed by Sautéed Chicken Breast with White Wine/Mushroom Sauce (apparently also known as gravy in the great state of Arkansas).

Dessert was bread pudding made from leftover Krispy Kreme doughnuts that we put in the freezer a few weeks ago after we fired them for bringing stale, shrunken little doughnuts after I fought so hard to fill our store with them based on childhood memories.

Turns out they make the best bread pudding I’ve ever had, and I’m thinking about bringing them back just so I can get more stale doughnuts to make bread pudding with!

Here’s the recipe:

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Bread Pudding
makes one 9″x13″ pan 

12 each      day-old Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (or another brand)
1 cup           Dried Cranberries
4 cups         Heavy Cream
1 cup           Granulated Sugar
8 each        Eggs
1 tsp            Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp        Nutmeg
1 tsp            Cinnamon

  • Cut the doughnuts up into 3/4″ pieces and place into a buttered 9″x13″ pan. Sprinkle evenly with dried cranberries, and work a few of the cranberries into the center.
  • Combine cream and sugar in a small pot on the stove and bring to a simmer.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture while whisking.  Strain.
  • Pour mixture into the pan and lightly press down the doughnut pieces to make sure that they are all thoroughly soaked with custard.
  • Place pan in a 300 deg F oven and bake until top is brown and custard is set in the center (about 40-50 minutes).
  • Let cool slightly and serve warm with your favorite sauce, or no sauce at all.

Just before dessert is served, a huge champagne glass the size of a small child is filled with bread pudding, set on fire, and taken around the room as yet another spectacle.  I love fire, and it’s all I can do to keep from drinking the 151 that creates it, just before setting the head table on fire during the final trumpet fanfare!

The memories of the last time I drank Bacardi 151 probably have a lot to with it too.  I wrecked my mom’s 2 week old Maxima and went to jail for the first time (but far from the last).  Never touched the stuff again!

The first year I did the Madrigal Feast the menu I inherited was sliced ham, sweet potatoes from a can, and green beans.  The ham got overcooked before sitting in a hot box for too long, and what we served the first night was actually ham jerky.  Not good.

The second year I blamed the first year on the menu and offered to produce a better menu for them.  The newly appointed leaders of the festivities opted for Cornish Game Hen (which turns out to be the most traditional meal for this function nationwide).  I gave them a half of a hen with Duchesse Potatoes and I think green beans again (they might have been bundled this time).

The previous matriarch of the the Feast was in attendance on opening night and sent out a scathing letter of disappointment in the meal, which ended up on our catering director’s desk and subsequently mine.

I responded equally scathingly, and trebled her word count at that.

They didn’t understand why they couldn’t have a whole game hen, and why they couldn’t pay half as much.  She thought that the potatoes were terrible, and that there weren’t enough beans.

Personally I thought that the goddamned trumpets were out of tune with one another, and the script was stupid.

Last year they were invited to write their own menu, and it went great.  Cornbread stuffed chicken I believe, and I can’t remember the other components, except they wanted cranberry relish because “it adds color to the plate”.  Yes, indeed it does!

When it came to dessert we made sure that every plate had at least a half-pound of bread pudding.  They loved it, and a few people even wanted more!

This year I was asked to suggest some minor changes to the menu, to which I responded, “Fuck no!  Feed them whatever they want, charge them whatever they want to pay!  I’ll make sure there’s plenty of food, that it’s not overcooked, and that it’s on time–and I’ll plate it anyway you’d like”.

So that’s what we did, and I imagine that everyone was elated.

They didn’t deserve bread pudding that good.  I suspect that the cheese-filled mashed potatoes were a delight.  Undoubtedly they loved the cranberry relish, and thought that it went really well with the gravy.  It sure was pretty on the plate.

Turns out I don’t dislike Christmas–I just don’t care for choral departments, or trumpets!

I did win a share of the nation’s second largest ever lottery last night–well I won $4.  Pretty much all of my Christmas shopping is done, and it’s not even December yet!  My plane tickets are paid for to go to Maryland for two weeks.  We close in 12 days.

And I was notified today that I have in fact successfully gotten reservations for minibar by josé andrés in Washington, DC, one of the Top Eleven Toughest Reservations in the World!  Joan and I will be dining at minibar on 12/21/12.  I thought that if the world does in fact come to a grinding halt on that day as the Mayans predicted then I want my last meal to be a stellar one!

I kind of hope it does too because I don’t know if I can take another football season at ASU, and another fucking Madrigal Feast!

Do I sound irritable to you?

Enjoy the bread pudding…and Merry Christmas!