Ho ho ho

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.

Happy Holidays,

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.

On all holiday mornings it is essential to have cocktails with breakfast. We had Cava with pomegranate blueberry juice.

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.

We couldn’t get a picture of the dish before plates were licked clean.

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…

Grandma’s antipasto buffet is a Christmas Eve tradition.

This is what elves eat.

Insalatta di Pesce Stocco made by Dad.

Clams also made by Dad.

Breetel and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Thanksgiving, a Week in Review

For the past week I have been busy eating and drinking with my family in NY. All our celebrations revolve around the meal and begin with menu planning. This year there were two teams: mom and brother on Team Add On versus dad and me on Team Progress. Team Progress felt the traditional Thanksgiving menu had too many starches and lacked innovation. Team Add On felt none of the traditional starches could be sacrificed but we were willing to add new dishes to the spread. Because dad is foreign his opinion on this American meal did not hold much weight; Team Add On won. There were two of everything: traditional stuffing and cornbread stuffing, roast turkey and smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, Beth’s cranberries and Pam’s cranberries. The meal was an overall success and no one wanted for starch. I look forward to a creative Christmas menu which we have already begun planning with Google docs.

Happy holidays,

The Feast Beast

Note: All recipes served fourteen persons with leftovers.

My dishes:

Wednesday’s cocktail:

Prosecco

cherry juice

lime

ginger root

Preparation: Mix to taste and drink all day in the kitchen.

Parsnip and Apple Soup:

small parsnips (one per person)

few honeycrisp apples (1/4 per person)

yellow onion

olive oil

vegetable stock

water

salt & pepper

cheddar crisp (recipe follows)

Preparation: Heat oil in large pot. Cut parsnips, apple, and onions in large chunks and saute with salt & pepper. Cover with combination of stock and water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cool and puree. Taste to adjust seasoning. Can be made ahead of time and re-heated. Garnish with cheddar crisp.

Cheddar crisp:

Grate cheddar by hand or with food processor. Sprinkle thin layer on sheet pan covered with parchment. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes and let cool. Can be made ahead.

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage, Fennel and Port Soaked Currants:

2 batches cornbread

2 cups corn kernals

1 cup currants

1/4 cup port

5 tbsp fennel seeds

1 sausage (I used Ndjua, spreadable salame, from Boccalone)

beef stock

Preparation: Make two batches cornbread and let cool. Roast corn kernals with whole chiles, salt and pepper in 450 degree oven until blistery; remove chiles and set corn aside. Heat port and currants in microwave or saucepan and set aside. In a skillet saute sausage with fennel until browned. Add currants to sausage and fennel and set mixture aside. Cube cooled cornbread and place in the biggest bowl you have. To the cornbread add corn kernals and sausage mixture. Toss with beef stock until wet and spongey. Place in baking dish. Bake in 350 oven about one hour. Can be made ahead.

Crispy Kale:

kale

seal salt

Preparation: cook kale until crispy in 450 degree oven. Salt. Eat.

Other highlights…

Dad’s smoked turkey wrapped in bacon.

They sat outside in the rain all day and it still needed to be finished in the oven.

It was delicious- like anything that’s wrapped in bacon.

Auntie B’s cranberry sauce. Made annually and enjoyed long after.

A vat of Mom’s mashed potatoes with bacon and scallions.

Smoked elephant garlic spread.

The whole plate with lots of other delicious stuff I didn’t mention. I was too full and liquored up to care about taking pictures of dessert. Dan made fried ice cream and it was awesome.