Christmas traditions abound all over the world. For instance, in recent years KFC has become somewhat of a Christmas meal tradition in Japan, mind boggling tidbit that it is. However did you ever wonder how noted chefs and restaurateurs celebrate Christmas? As it is usually their busiest season, with all of the parties and holiday dining, some shine it on and let someone else do the cooking, preferring to lay low and veg out on the couch in front of the tube. Others go the busman’s holiday route, keeping their home fires burning while stirring their pots and aiming those meat thermometers straight into the middle of the roast.
Michael McCarty, the iconic restaurateur, creator/owner of Michael’s in Santa Monica and Michael’s in New York City is definitely your DIY Christmas Traditionalist. He’s the whiz kid/enfant terrible who brashly and boldly opened the Santa Monica restaurant at the ripe young age of 25, and did he ever cause a ruckus! In what has proven over the years to be both his nature and his signature style, even at 25 he had the knowledge, taste, and chutzpah to wake LA and shake it up. He created a glorious outdoor dining patio and interior rooms where diners could look at museum quality art by LA’s top artists including David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, Ed Moses and Robert Graham to name a few. The excellent cuisine, made from the finest, freshest ingredients, was perfectly and elegantly served in this beautiful art filled environment. It may sound like a big reach for one so young, but not for Michael who set himself on this course 35 years ago and hasn’t strayed since.
“…Among the leaves so green… love and joy come to you,
and to you your wassail too,
and God bless you and send you a happy new year,
and God send you a happy new year.”
Though I’ve never actually gone wassailing per say, I have though, made a batch of wassail to fill my home with the scents of the season and share with friends and family. This Farmer’s wassail incorporates the garden and seasonal produce that will pack your home with fragrance for days to come. I actually make two versions of this wassail… the base basically the same for both, but one is much better for ingesting than the other, mainly because of the presence of sugar.
Wassailing is actually an act of celebrating somewhat noisily while drinking a concoction, wassail, of warm beer or wine seasoned with spices and fruit. An English tradition that was brought to the colonies, wassailing and making wassail became a source of delight, warmth, season’s greetings, and entertainment for merry folk; and rightly so! Making and sharing wassail is merry and bright!
I was the youngest of five boys, most of them out on their own by the time I have any real Christmas memories. Being the baby of the family, and 8-years-younger than my closest brother, I had a different relationship with my dad than they did. He was an old-fashioned father and my arrival had been quite a surprise (they were hoping for a girl.) My mother passed away when I was five-years-old and my dad was forced to raise my brother Paul and me by himself for a few years before he remarried.
Our lives as a blended family weren't always easy, but Christmas was a time for tradition and like many people we had old ones and new ones. The week after Thanksgiving my dad and I would head out to the local tree lot. We always had a real tree and it had to be a Noble Fir, which has the best branches and spacing for decorations. If Dad was going to pay good money for a tree he wanted as many options as possible and the earlier you went the better the selection. Once we found our perfect tree, up it went onto the roof of our Buick Estate Wagon for the long journey home.
Since we had to wait for everyone to be home to decorate the tree - another immovable tradition - it sat outside in our backyard in a bucket of water so it would stay fresh until the "big night." Sometimes it was Christmas Eve, some years the weekend before. I always wished it was up longer, but the rules were the rules. To set the mood my dad would put on the Firestone Christmas album he got from his local tire dealer every year and then bring down the boxes of ornaments and lights the family had collected.
Flowers!! When was the last time you got flowers for no reason – opened the door and there they were (address given on request.) But one of the things we love to do on the holidays is send a gift to a friend or family member who we unfortunately won’t be with that year that becomes a part of their holiday season, so you’re sort of there even though you’re not!
A holiday floral arrangement for the living room or as a centerpiece (and if you’re as behind in your holiday shopping as I am) – it’s a simple and beautiful gift!
Yes, they are our advertiser but we only take advertisers we love and the Teleflora holiday arrangements (or roses if you prefer) are spectacular, reliable, and will still GET THERE in time for Xmas!!! Click on the pic to get 20% off the Christmas bouquet of your choice!
Some people think Roast Prime Rib is tradional for Christmas and lots of people just go with Roast Turkey – stuffed, brined, fast-cooked or whatever – but we thought it would be fun this year to serve duck or goose. Here's to hope, change and peace in the New Year. Happy Holidays from all of us at One for the Table.
In many European cultures, it's tradition to eat seafood on Christmas Eve. My family's Hungarian traditions always had us eating some sort of fried fish or stew. Italians particularly hold this tradition to the extreme, eating anywhere from 7 to 13 different types of seafood dishes for dinner. It's called the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The odd numbers have symbolic meaning in both Catholicism and numerology. Seven represents the seven sacraments—and sins. In numerology, seven represents perfection. I find that seafood stews are some of the most hearty and satisfying of all the fish dishes. One seafood stew that I find most special is Cioppino, a true Italian-American invention.
Created by Italian immigrants in San Francisco, Cioppino was first made out of necessity. The Italian fisherman made it for lunch on their boats with whatever catch of that day. Now Cioppino has become so famous that it can be found on restaurant menus throughout San Francisco and beyond. Supposedly the word Cioppino comes from the word ciuppin, which in the Ligurian dialect means "to chop," since the seafood that goes into the stew is typically cut into manageable pieces. But the soup/stew can contain more than just chopped fish. Clams, mussels, and other shellfish make great additions, rounding out the wonderful sea flavor of this tomato-based soup.
Now you may be asking yourself, "what is a pepper biscuit?" This recipe was my grandmother's original and has been in the family for over 80 years. It's a savory Italian biscuit made primarily of flour, olive oil, black pepper, and fennel seeds. They can be found in many Italian delis and are usually ring-shaped biscuits that have been boiled.
My family's pepper biscuits are baked instead of boiled. When you bite into one, you'll find the texture to be satisfyingly crisp and slightly crumbly. They're all-occasion biscuits too. Serve them as a part of an antipasto. Crumble them into "croutons" for a unique salad topping. Or savor them with a hot espresso or tea.
Pepper biscuits make great easy and inexpensive Christmas gifts too because they can be made ahead. Once cooled, store in air-tight container (preferably tin to maintain their crispness) and keep in a cool area; they should last up to a month.
Even though my mom loves to make pepper biscuits, she prefers when my dad does because he twists each cookie so uniformly. If you're not into twisting, you can also roll the dough into a cigar shape and simply form a circle. They're equally delicious no matter what shape they come in.
My recipe for polenta stuffed artichokes came about thanks to winning some heirloom artichokes from Ocean Mist. When I was working on my first cookbook I needed artichokes and it wasn’t quite artichoke season. Fortunately Ocean Mist came to my rescue and kindly shipped me a whole carton full and I’ve been a fan ever since. I've found each of the varieties of artichokes they grow to be particularly plump and meaty with great flavor and not overly bitter. I'm a subscriber to their newsletter, which alerts me to when and where artichokes are on sale locally and sometimes also gives away artichokes.
Most recipes use just the artichoke hearts or they call for stuffing the whole artichoke with bread crumb stuffing. I decided to try an entirely different kind of stuffing — lemon and goat cheese polenta. Artichokes tend to make other ingredients taste sweet, so the tangy and salty flavor profile of lemon and cheese complements it perfectly. It will seem like a lot of polenta, but it's what makes the dish so hearty. Use as much or as little of the polenta as you like.
Merry-Merry-Christmas! One of our favorite quick appetizers are these Italian Stuffed Mushrooms. They usually show up at all holiday celebrations because they are so easy to make.
You can even throw them together early in the day and bake them off right as guests are arriving.
Having a hot appetizer that is so easy to make is a godsend on party day. I often double the recipe because they disappear so fast.
I hope you have a great day, have to get back to cooking as I am going to be making my Lobster Bisque, it’s just not the holidays without it.
This is a fantastic and easy recipe from my friend Pat Loud which was passed down from her mother. She serves it at nearly every party that I’ve attended and it’s always a big hit.
As with most good recipes, the amounts are somewhat flexible – in other words, feel free to use more or less of any of the ingredients.
Key to success, however, depends upon quality sharp cheddar cheese. I used Cabot Private Stock Extra Sharp Cheddar. Any favorite bleu cheese will work – Roquefort, Danish Bleu, or English Stilton.
Make sure that the cheeses are not too cold, or the mixture will not blend in the food processor.
I went to storage and found my mother's recipe for Holiday Fruit Cake. A lot of people think of fruitcake as something to use for a doorstop, but this is not your average fruitcake. It's really delicious.
My mother would make it for the holidays for a handful of people, including Leonard, who loved it and looked forward to it every year.
Here's a scan of it written out in her handwriting as a 2-page pdf (which you can download here). She used a check mark instead of a quotation mark for "same as above", and medium dry cherry should be 'sherry'.)
She usually baked it in round bundt cake type pans with a hole in the middle. Leftover mix would be baked in a normal loaf pan.
Sharon Robinson is a singer, music producer and Grammy winning songwriter, as well as author of "On Tour with Leonard Cohen, photographs by Sharon Robinson" (powerHouse). Sharon’s mother, Mildred Robinson, was a well-known caterer and restauranteur in Beverly Hills during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Sharon's new Album, Caffeine, will be released in early 2015.
More than twenty years ago, when my Auntie Elinor was living in Riverside, Illinois, she began sending me the special holiday cookbook that her local newspaper published. It was packed with all kinds of recipes that readers had shared. I always loved reading through its pages.
One year, as I read through the recipes, I came upon an interesting cookie called Horns. Tender pastry dough, rich with butter and sour cream, is rolled out thin and sprinkled with a cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture.
Wedges of dough are rolled up and baked. The dough is very nice to work with and rolls out very easily. If you haven't had a lot of experience with pastry dough, this is one you'll want to try. It's very user-friendly.
Infused with the holiday spirit, I’ve found myself putting eggnog-type flavorings in everything lately, including these French crepes I made for breakfast.
They’d be equally good for dessert, perhaps with a dash of rum in the warmed maple syrup on top?
Here’s the recipe, which makes 8 thin crepes:
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