Advent Calendar: December 5, 2015
Christmas Recipes: Post # 5
From now until Christmas Eve, I will be participating in the 2015 Edition of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories by Thomas MacEntee and the Geneabloggers. If you would like to know more or even join in, please see This Link. I’d like to personally thank Dawn Williams-Kogutkiewicz of Dawning Genealogy for sharing this idea on Genealogy Bloggers.
December 5 – Christmas Recipes
My Memories: When I think of Christmas recipes, the first thing that comes to mind is cookies!!! And at first, that’s what I thought this post idea was for; – you’ll have to wait until post #14 for my cookie recipes.
I don’t remember any other meats served at holidays in my house other than chicken – it was always “chicken and dressing.” Mama never cooked turkey, besides not liking it, she always said it was too big to cook for the three of us. Funny, how I think nothing of cooking a turkey for just myself and Steve. We love leftovers and what’s better than knowing you have another meal waiting in the freezer for you.
Dressing is what we call stuffing in the South. I never heard the word stuffing until I moved to Connecticut. Although I generally make stuffing for holiday meals, once in awhile I add dressing to my menu. I have a “how to” recipe written by my mother; she wrote it out for me years ago.
Mama’s Dressing Recipe
When I married and moved to the land of cold and snow in Connecticut, I inherited more aunts and uncles and cousins than I ever had – I now had a big family and my holidays were filled with new foods that soon filled up my recipe box.
My father in law always bought Rib Roast for the Christmas dinner meal – and it was his job to cook it to perfection! And if you knew my father in law, you know he took that job quite seriously. It was always a meticulous process in preparing to cook – he babied that roast as he tested it with his special meat thermometer. The smells coming from the oven had you asking, over and over, “is it ready yet?”
I learned my stuffing recipe from a friend living in our apartment builiding; we ate Thanksgiving with them one year and I ate myself silly with her stuffing – from that day, it became my stuffing dish for over forty years and served at every holiday. I use a bag of herb crushed stuffing mix (I like Pepperidge Farm), celery, mushrooms, onion (all chopped), sausage (I find the breakfast roll-type works best). Once that’s cooked, I pour into a large greased baking dish, add the stuffing bag, water or chicken stock, melted butter and a couple of eggs (raw) mixed in to hold it together. This year I cooked and baked it in the same pan – a no. 12 cast iron baking pan; nothing better than not having to dirty two pans. And if you know us – you know we don’t cook in anything except cast iron!
There was always my mother-in-law’s “potato boats” on the table; I don’t know how that name came about or who first called them that, but I get a “what” whenever I say the name. They are actually nothing more than a twice baked potato. I prepare mine a little different by drizzling olive oil and sprinkling kosher salt all over the skins before baking. I think it helps in cooking the potato insides to a more fluffier texture and nothing better than licking your fingers later after handling all those potatoes and tasting that salt.
My mother in law prepared candied yams and I loved them until I discovered Sweet Potato Souffle at my cousin Betty’s house in Georgia – since then it’s my “always” holiday dish. I haven’t met a Yankee yet that doesn’t like that Southern dish with toasted pecans on top.
Other vegetables served usually depended on who’s house we were eating at, as everyone had their own favorites or sometimes they just wanted to try a new holiday recipe. I have favorites of my Southern smashed green beans or cream style corn, but I’ve recently discovered Brussels Sprouts, and they’re so easy to roast in the over, but sometimes it just depends on how much oven space you have.
My Husbands Memories: As a young boy, I paid no attention to recipes, I just wanted food and I could eat you out of house and home!
Holiday dinners were the best, as the house was usually filled with all your cousins. Xmas Eve was the better night though, as everyone gathered at my grandmother’s house on First Avenue in West Haven. The tables were loaded with food, desserts and liquor and cordial bottles – everyone had to toast the holiday!
The Xmas foods at my two grandmothers varied so differently – in Shelton I remember only having home made pizza on Christmas Eve. When we arrived at my grandmother’s house in West Haven, they were serving seafood sauce over pasta several types of fried fish like shrimp, smelts, cod, scallops, and calamari. I’ll get more into the Italian food traditions in another post. And besides all the food, then came the desserts, trays and trays of cookies, and also fruit and nut trays. How did we eat all that?
My grandmother Minnie and her daughters usually made the Zeppoles (fried dough balls) early Xmas Eve morning – and served with honey drizzled on top. They were my favorite, and the first thing I ate when I arrived. They were a lot of work to make, but everyone waited for that special treat! It wouldn’t have been Christmas Eve without them on the table.
Today, I make the seafood sauce for Christmas Eve – and I’ve perfected it as the best. I take it another step by picking all the meat out of the blue crabs to put back in the sauce; it enhances the taste and as no one ate the crabs after the meal anyway – the meat was being wasted. I hate wasting food! I haven’t attempted the stuffed shrimp yet as Jeanne still makes it. I always felt Christmas Eve is the best of the holidays! We wait all year for the seafood sauce as it never seems to taste right any other time of the year.
The Northern vs Southern in the Christmas holidays vary quite a bit and when you throw in the Italian nationality – the foods are so different. I love them both!
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© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco