Christmas

The Devil's Eggnog

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by Amy Sherman

eggnogpancakes.jpgI made eggnog from scratch once for a party, during college. It was positively amazing. It consisted of sugar, brandy, heavy cream, eggs and a pinch of nutmeg. It ought to have been called devil's nog. The stuff was pure evil! But tasty.

Sadly the eggnog you buy at the store is nothing like the eggnog I made. It's not fluffy and boozy, just cloying and thick. Every year I forget this and buy a quart. So this year after my first disappointing cup I decided to cook with it instead of drinking it. For years I've seen recipes for eggnog pancakes. But when I went to make them my printer wasn't working and I was too lazy to write down the ingredients. So I made up my own version. It turned out surprisingly good.

Eggnog is really not much different than a custard. You could use it in all sorts of recipes. You can make milkshakes out of it or use it in french toast, bread pudding, pot de creme, ice cream, and maybe even crepes. If you have a favorite use for leftover eggnog let me know about it.

A Christmas Dinner

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by Nora Ephron

christmas-candles.jpgWe have a traditional Christmas dinner.   We've been doing it for twenty-two years. There are fourteen people involved – eight parents and six children – and we all get together at Jim and Phoebe's during Christmas week to exchange presents and make predictions about events in the coming year.

Each of us brings part of the dinner. Maggie brings the hors d'oeuvres. Like all people assigned to bring hors d'oeuvres, Maggie is not really into cooking, but she happens to be an exceptional purchaser of hors d'oeuvres. Joe and Phoebe do the main course because the dinner is at their house.  This year they're cooking a turkey.  Jane and I were always in charge of desserts.   Jane's specialty was a wonderful bread pudding. I can never settle on just one dessert, so I often make three – something chocolate (like a chocolate cream pie), a fruit pie (like a tarte tatin) and a traditional plum pudding which no one ever eats but me. I love making desserts for Christmas dinner, and I have always believed that I make excellent desserts. But now that everything has gone to hell and I've been forced to replay the last twenty-two years of Christmas dinners, I realize that the only dessert anyone ate with real enthusiasm was Jane's bread pudding; no one ever said anything complimentary about any of mine. How I could have sat through Christmas dinner all this time and not realized this simple truth is one of the most puzzling aspects of this story.

One for the Table's Appetizer Extravaganza

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by The Editors

Elegant Entertaining

by Holly Palance

jolly3.jpgAll I want for Christmas is my caviar pie. Which is a jolly good thing, since it's the only dish I take joy in creating.

Born without the cooking gene, my talent was always for producing and managing parties, until Brent Power, my best friend from grade school served up a delectable dip Christmas Eve 1982 at my wedding shower and I was hooked. I actually broke down, copied the recipe (my first ASK ever) and have been serving it and bringing it as my pot luck contribution ever since to ooh's and ahh's.

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Holly's Foolproof Caviar Pie

Clam Jam Dip

eggplant-dip-or-spread.jpg Ina Garten’s Roasted Eggplant Spread

Lila's Guacamole

Hummus

Leek & Saffron Broiled Oysters

Rebecca’s Simple Ricotta Spread with Garlic Bruschetta

Felicite's Shrimp Tapas


The Soup That Saved Christmas

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by Robert Keats

duluth1.jpgNo one wants a face full of snow. But that’s what I had all too often growing up in those brutal Chicago winters. I always seemed to be in the middle of a blizzard walking against gale force winds – which is why I spent more time walking backwards than I did forward.

And no one wants to step into slush. But when I did, my mother would put my shoes in the oven. Usually about thirty minutes too long. My shoes would come out smoking and ruined, which was not unlike many of our family dinners.

And no one wants to be a poster child for static electricity. But the winter air was so dry that my hair repelled my brush, my pants clung to my socks, and touching anything would send enough voltage through me to light up Soldier Field.

Those were not a few of my favorite things. So when Christmas vacation would approach, I was pretty much champing at the bit to get out of Dodge.

But it never happened.

Pickled Herring on Christmas Eve

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by Bruce Cormicle

pickled-herring.jpgMy family, while I grew up in Iowa in the 1970's,  had no traditions save one.  For 364 dinner days of the year, it was my mother who performed culinary magic at home.  (Today her dinners would be heralded by food critics as tempura-style but back then it was just “frying floured foods in fat”.)   Her lipid of choice was Crisco but on Christmas Eve the can of Crisco was put away and my father took out the stew pots.

My father, who was a local politician,  positively beamed with pride at his singular culinary contribution for the year which was an appealing to no one constituency menu of homemade chili, homemade oyster stew, and store bought pickled herring.  He had taken shrapnel at the Battle of the Bulge in WWII and perhaps this affected his judgment but nevertheless he fancied himself a gourmand and this menu was his pride and joy.

Peppermint Pie

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by Nora Ephron

peppermintpie1It’s become fashionable to say that your favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and every so often I say those words. What I mean is that Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s entirely about food. The glorious turkey. The stuffing your mother used to make. And pies, pies, pies. When you say your favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, you’re not just praising Thanksgiving – you’re secretly dissing Christmas, with all its mercenary trappings and its promise of day-after holiday depression.

But the truth is I am demented over Christmas. I love it. I love twinkle lights, I love my tree (which I put up the first week of December), and I love Christmas dinner. Unlike Thanksgiving dinner, which is practically written in stone, Christmas dinner is a feast with no real rules. Days of discussion precede it. Goose? Prime rib? Turkey all over again? What about ham?

And then there are the desserts. The desserts of Christmas are divine, and they are true holiday recipes, the definition of which is that you would not be caught dead eating them at any other time of the year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without something like gingerbread, or a Yule log, or a plum pudding with hard sauce.

Strawberry Guavas: The Antithesis to Christmas Cookies

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by Susan Russo

strawberryguavas.jpgWhat is the complete opposite of Christmas cookies? I just did some research; turns out that the complete opposite of a Christmas cookie is a strawberry guava. It's no wonder this sexy fruit is native to Brazil, the land of beautiful bronzed bodies and gorgeous beaches. Everything about a strawberry guava says, "look at me."

Eating a strawberry guava is a memorable sensory experience. First it entices you with its intoxicating perfume of ripe summer strawberries and tart pink grapefruit. Its butter cup yellow rind is smooth and soft to the touch, evoking warmth and sunshine. One bite of a strawberry guava will make you understand why it's called "exotic." The creamy, fruity flesh is the color of roses, while the flavor is a beautiful combination of tangy, sweet grapefruit, juicy, ripe strawberries, and late summer grapes.

Most U.S. guavas are grown in Hawaii and Florida, though the strawberry guavas you see here were grown in Southern California and generously given to me by our friend, Adel. These strawberry guavas have a pastel yellow skin yet also come in bright red or deep purple. When buying strawberry guavas or any variety of guava really, look for a fragrant fruit that is free of blemishes and soft to the touch. Hold it in your hand, and give it a gentle squeeze; it should give slightly, being neither too hard nor too squishy.

Biscotti for Christmas

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by Joseph Erdos

ImageBiscotti, the popular Italian cookies, can be enjoyed any time of the year, but I find them especially appealing for the holidays. Typically made with almonds and called cantucci in Tuscany, these little treats can include any combination of nuts and dried fruits. Bright red cranberries and green pistachios are ideal for Christmas. I make them every year to share with neighbors and friends who stop by between the two holidays. They go great with coffee and tea and are perfect for dipping.

Traditionally quite dry, biscotti go well with beverages or, as the Italians enjoy them, with the dessert wine Vin Santo. The name "biscotti" translates to twice-baked. First, they are baked through and second, they are dried out. This method of preservation dates back to Roman times, when biscuits were made to last for journeys as long as months. I wouldn't recommend keeping them around for that long. However, they can be stored nicely in a tightly sealed container. But I'm sure they will disappear soon enough.

Classic English Holiday Traditions

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by Eloisa James

feast-eliz.jpgThe Christmas Feast:
The Christmas feast was an elaborate affair, and in grand households, often featured an array of food beyond modern imagining: roasted swan, venison, peacocks (with spread tail and gilded beak) and – the crowning achievement – a boar’s head.  There was also a variant on mincemeat pie…a huge stuffed pastry, filled with minced meats that had been sweetened with sugar and dried fruits.  Christmas pudding was also popular, but it was a savory affair, made with meat broth, chopped tongue, raisins, fruit juice, wine and spices, thickened with breadcrumbs.  And the holidays had a special comfort food, as well: furmenty, a hot cereal made with wheat slowly stewed in milk, served with raisins, sugar and spices, was quite popular.
 
The Christmas Season:
Parliament was out of session, and upper class families retired to their country homes for the Christmas season, where they enlivened the local shire with festivities a-plenty.  In fact, it’s been said that the locals in the countryside voiced displeasure if the “great families” chose to spend the Christmas season in town (London), rather than organizing activities around their estates.  Hunting was among the most popular winter activities, and traditionally, the day after Christmas brought a festive foxhunt!

Xmas Dinner at Scandia

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by Amy Spies

tvm2162_072707_coconutcake_l.jpgWhen I was growing up, my favorite grown-up restaurant was SCANDIA in Hollywood.  Run by Ken Hanson, this award-winning Scandinavian eatery was the place my family flocked to for holidays, not just birthday dinners and Sweet 16 luncheons, but also un-Hallmark events—like when I cut my head and all I wanted was Scandia’s Swedish meatballs so my dad got them on his way home from the set of “The Untouchables” episode he wrote. 

At the time, there wasn’t a big L.A. take-out scene, but Scandia accommodated because it was elegant enough to be casual.  Scandia was the treat I always chose when my mom and I collectively took the day off from life (for me, high school; for her, writing/editing and house stuff) to hang out together.  And a few years after my mom died, I chose Scandia to go to the night a movie I wrote opened.

Christmas Eve Dinner in Maine

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by Brenda Athanus

view.jpg We have the same meal every Christmas Eve, because it is just perfect! Not too difficult, things can be made in advance, and it is oh so good! Off to the Maine coast we go to get Glidden Point oysters right from the grower, pick up our lobsters that we have pre ordered and then a quick stop at the grocery store...and we start to cook.

The menu:
Leek saffron broiled oysters
Baked stuffed lobsters with crab meat
Caesar Salad (you are on your own)
Chocolate molten cake
and lots of Champagne(on your own again)

Saved by Pierogi

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by Lisa Dinsmore

sc002963a801.jpgThough everyone thinks their family is odd, mine was definitely unique, at least in my neighborhood. Both my parents are only children, which made holiday celebrations a little somber since there were no siblings or cousins to play with or share the scrutiny of my grandparents’ expectations.

Plus, my mother is French and my father is Polish, which, in those days (the early 60s) was quite a bone of contention with both sides.  It was true love (43 years and counting), so they decided to allow their “crazy” kids to get hitched, but none of them were ever truly happy about it.

The fact that my parents had four kids in 6 years alleviated a little of the enmity and focused their parents' attention on us.

Being a male-dominated world back then, we always went to my Polish grandparents house for Christmas Eve.  It was all adults. My siblings and I were the only kids. Since we spent every day of our lives together, we were uninterested and incapable of entertaining each other. We were also expected to behave like little ladies and gentlemen. Not hard since there wasn’t much to play with at my grandparents house. My French grandmother bitched about it every year and often threatened not to attend – even though she couldn’t cook and had no room to host an event.

 

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