Christmas is the king of holidays. Indulgence is celebrated with no concern for price or calories. Grocery shopping is a grand outing that requires supreme organization; lists are divided by protein, produce, dry goods, and dairy and a team of shoppers is assembled. Seafood is ordered in advance at the local fish market and a brave trip is made the day of Christmas Eve to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
All of this planning and groundwork is done knowing that the reward is the best meal of the year. But, if we didn’t enjoy the work (fighting Italians in the Bronx for prosciutto bread and cleaning clove after clove of garlic) then we wouldn’t bother. Last year my family opted to take a break from the big Christmas production and ordered Chinese food. We didn’t just miss the traditional feast but everything leading up to it, especially the time spent together in the kitchen. For all these reasons I am happy that we have reinstated the Christmas feast.
The Feast Beast
Last Christmas morning Breetel and I served up the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon buns and they were so good we had to do it again. I made the dough the night before and left it in the fridge overnight. This year we added my mom’s spiced pecans to half the batch; we just rolled the nuts in with the butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Maple extract is the best smell in the world.
My father taught us how to make Rabbit Agro Dolce, a sweet and sour rabbit stew. Dad bought whole rabbits and I had the opportunity to practice butchering. The dish is prepared like most stews: meat is browned in a frying pan, the pan is deglazed with red wine, and everything goes into a pot of mirepoix with liquid and spices. The addition of brown sugar and red wine vinegar give this stew its unique flavor.
Braciole is beef sliced thin and stuffed with mortadella, Italian parsley, and pecorino. It’s browned on the stove and then finished in the oven with a tomato sauce. I don’t know if it’s traditional to throw potatoes in the pan but we did.
Arancini are rice balls that are stuffed, breaded and fried. It is necessary to chill risotto before hand. To form the arancini spread the rice flat onto your open palm, put the filling in the center, and close the rice around it creating a ball. For our filling we used pork, peas, and cheese. The balls are then coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before deep-frying. Served plain or with tomato sauce they make a tasty snack.
The winning dish was Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Eel Sauce. So easy and so fucking delicious. Wrap scallops in bacon and skewer them then cook in a very hot oven (about 500 degrees) until the bacon is crispy. Finish with eel sauce. Our sushi chef friend, Ben, gave us the eel sauce. If you don’t know Ben look for it in a store or ask your favorite sushi restaurant if you can buy some. I don’t know what eel sauce is but i love it.
Here are some other highlights…