Today is Christmas Eve. We got a great big tree at Harold’s on St. Claude Avenue and put it in the window of the front room of our new house. My sister Jonica flew down from Brooklyn to be with us. It’s always been our family tradition to have a party on Christmas Eve before we go to church for a candlelit service. We’re skipping church this year but we’re having a party and we’re expecting about 30 people to show up. I am making a ham because ham is the best. Nothing is going to make people happier and also be easier to prepare than a ham. We’re also having a Siberian Kale salad, roasted sweet potato salad with basil, cilantro, lime and peanuts, a big pot of Camellia white beans and my mom’s lemon squares and chocolate chip meringues. We also have a few bottles of wine and some beer, but we hope people bring more booze. The more the merrier, as they say.
This is our first time celebrating Christmas in New Orleans. My family recently returned to New Orleans after 4 years of living in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. When we lived here before we traveled back to NY to celebrate Christmas with my family. It is also our first Christmas with our baby Felix who will is 10 months old today. We live in the Bywater, a historic downtown neighborhood where a diverse, creative community resides. The neighborhood is great for its proximity to the French Quarter and access to performance venues and bars, but it is grossly underserved when it comes to affordable food stores, so I’ve traveled across the city to collect the various items that I wanted for this holiday.
On December 8th, I called Cleaver and Co to reserve a ham. Cleaver and Co is a local butcher located Uptown on Baronne Street that fabricates, cuts and cures every part of whole animals. They even sell tallow soap. I asked to be put down for a 10-pounder, which I picked up yesterday. It’s fully cooked and smells gloriously smoky.
The greens and sweet potatoes are from the Old Ironworks Farm Stand, which is held right down the street at the Old Ironworks on Piety Street on Wednesdays from 10-2. It’s a new market, but it’s a great addition to the neighborhood and I wish them continued success. Run by Linnzi Zaorski, a jazz singer who was based out of New Orleans for years but who has recently moved to the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain, and her boyfriend Nick, the produce from their GROW Organic farm in Bush, LA, is beautiful, affordable, fresh and delicious. I’ve basically bought all our fresh produce from them since the week they opened.
The beans and other staples are from Rouse’s. Rouse’s is a local grocery store chain that has a good selection of everything you’d expect to find at the grocery store as well as some remarkably tasty prepared items. I would never buy prepared food at the Associated on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, but every time I go to Rouse’s I buy a different prepared item, from a crawfish dressing-stuffed chicken to Creole smoked fish salad to mustardy potato salad and I haven’t been disappointed yet. I have drive for almost half an hour to get to there, though, which is crazy when you consider that I live in a city, but for now and the foreseeable future it’s the best option.
– Amanda Zug-Moore
SARA’S LEMON SQUARES (P.S Taken from the NY Times years ago!)
1 Cup butter, softened
1/2 Cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Cups unbleached flour
2 Cups granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons flour
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 Tablespoons lemon rind
Confectioners’ sugar for topping
1. For the crust combine the ingredients; blend with fingers or pastry blender and pat evenly into 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, beat eggs slightly; stir in sugar, flour, lemon juice and rind. Mix well and spread over baked crust. Bake for 25 minutes more.
4. When cooled, cut into tiny squares; remove from pan and sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar.
5. If desired, bake, cut into squares and freeze. To serve, defrost and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
All photos by Jonica Moore