My mom has the misfortune of having her birthday fall on Christmas day. While it’s not much fun for her (one year we even resolved to moving her birthday to June), this is particularly fortuitous for me since I only need to make one trip back to celebrate both occasions.

Despite my dislike for cooking in other peoples kitchens, I make an exception for her birthday and cook a christmas/birthday dinner for her every year. This year I also made a food book with some of the best recipes from this blog and printed it through iPhoto which I paired with a dinner I made using recipes out of the book.

Here are the highlights of the dinner.

Cured tai in kombu consumé with arare crackers – This is the only dish for this dinner I’d never made before. Its based on a vision that’s been floating around in my head for a few weeks and I’d really been itching to give it a try. It was the first course and made for a nice light intro to the whole meal. The tai is cured with salt between layers of kombu for a day. It’s plated in tea cups with a little meyer lemon zest and a mitsuba leaf then kombu consumé is poured over it all from a teapot at the table. The hot broth gently poaches the cured fish while at the same time releasing the wonderful flavors of the salted tai into the soup. I also made some arare (rice cracker balls) by cubing mochi and roasting it in the oven. They add a nice crunch and the flavor of the toasted rice added a nice nutty polish to the dish.

Tuna Poke – I’ve never been a big fan of tuna sashimi. To me it’s a bit bland, so I really like turning it into a Hawaiian poke. The sesame oil, sea salt and seaweed is all it needs to really make it shine. This was course number two.

Chirashi Sushi – While uni and ikura aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, this is exactly the sort of thing my mom would like, so I went ahead and made it. It’s colorful, festive and relatively easy to make which makes it a great choice for large groups of people (provided they all like sushi).

Pork belly kakuni – We have a non-sushi eater in our family, so I made this braised pork belly to keep in line with the Japanese theme while providing a meat dish that he could eat. It hadn’t occurred to me that pork belly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but people seemed to like it none-the-less.

Meyer Lemon Spound Cake with Rasberry Puree – I’m really kind of infatuated with these little cakes, so rather than make a big elaborate birthday cake I made little individual spound cakes and put a single candle in it for my mom (seeing 60 candles in a cake probably would have ruined any cake I made for her). Their oven runs really cool, so I had to bake it for about 20 minutes (instead of 10), but other than that it went perfectly and was a hit