12 Dishes of Christmas – Take 2

 Examining the quintessential holiday foods

While this is certainly not an official list, we feel these twelve dishes are evocative of the grand spirit and familial feeling of the holiday season. Some families, regions and cultures adopt their own unique traditions, to be sure, while others tweak already established ones, and you’ll find dishes both new and old below.

If you missed last week’s edition, check it out here.

Without further ado, we present for your tasting pleasure, Days 7 through 12 of the 12 Dishes of Christmas…

Day 7: Egg Nog

Egg nog served in our glass Fidenza espresso cup.

As with most holidays, Christmastime partying often sees a bit of alcohol added to the mix. Such is the case with egg nog, the dairy-based, liquor-infused sweet holiday cocktail that acts as the social lubricant at so many holiday functions. Rum, whiskey or brandy are typical additions to the mixture, which also features milk (or cream), sugar, and beaten, raw eggs, which provide the characteristic frothy thickness.

We also recommend taking a stab at making homemade egg nog. As food author Paulius Nasviytus writes, “if you can’t decipher the ingredients, then you probably shouldn’t eat them!” This is true of many commercially-produced egg nogs, which feature high fructose corn syrup, among other additives. The best kitchen gadget we advise to whip up homemade egg nog is definitely a good wire whisk.

Day 8: Panettone

This Italian yeast bread is a traditional holiday dish that is well-known for its versatility as well as its sweetness, which can be attributed to the use of citron. Other variations include the use of anise, chocolate or even pine nuts. The versatile part? If you’re stuck with leftover panettone (certainly not the worst problem to have!), it makes a smashing French toast…

Panettone Baking PaperNative to Milan, the panettone can frequently be found in Italian specialty shops, already prepared and boxed. Of course, while buying pre-made can be time-saving, making panettone at home can be as rewarding as it is easy. While you would need a panettone mold, there are cost-effective options – even heat-safe paper pans! But, if you do throw in the proverbial towel and opt for a pre-made version, take care that you don’t confuse it with the oft-maligned cousin, the fruit cake, which we covered last week. That’ll be a tough one to explain to the in-laws.

Day 9: Swedish Meatballs

Swedish MeatballsThe best thing to come out of Sweden before IKEA (and unlike IKEA products, it doesn’t come with awkward cartoon instructions): the köttbullar. The interior meat make-up is similar to its other ethnic cousins, usually a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal. However, Swedish Meatballs feature milk-soaked breadcrumbs and, occasionally, cream. Oh, and let’s not forget the glorious lingonberry jam!

While every family has its own variation, the ‘how-to’ of making meatballs couldn’t be simpler. One constant we like to remind home cooks about is portioning: strive to keep each individual meatball (within reason) a similar size, to ensure even cooking. As you can imagine, a 4-ounce meatball will cook quicker than it’s 6-ounce neighbor – that’s a disaster waiting to happen if they’re cooking in the same pan! This is where portion scoops come in handy. The same portioning rule works for cookies, too!

Day 10: Gouda Tartlets

OK, OK, this particular recipe might not be very traditional. But one of your bloggers’ mothers has been serving these delicious tartlets as a Christmas appetizer for years, and it quickly became one of our favorites.

Well, actually, mom doesn’t make them anymore. She stopped as a form of protest against – this is true – the horrible “gouda” puns her three sons would make every time they came out.

Now I’m not saying the puns weren’t worth it, but man, do I miss these tartlets. Oh well – my loss can be your gain! Here’s the recipe.

2 pie crusts’ worth of dough
2 eggs
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz shredded Gouda cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup chopped, drained, roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Crusts should be room temperature. With 2.5 -inch round cutter, cut 24 rounds. Press each round into the bottom and up the sides of ungreased miniature muffin cups.

Beat eggs in medium bowl. Add half-and-half, flour and salt; beat well. Sprinkle cheese and walnuts into each crust-lined cup. Pour egg mixture into each cup. Sprinkle each with roasted peppers and chives.

Bake for 19-22 minutes or until filling is set and edges are light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove from pan.

Then eat. And I think you’ll agree… THEY’RE PRETTY GOUDA. (Worth it.)

Day 11: Rosettes and Lefse Cookies 

Lefse Rolling Pin

Lefse Rolling Pin

While we hate lumping two traditions together, there’s only so much time (and room on our plate!) to dish about our favorites during the holidays. Besides, what’s wrong with paying homage to both the savory (lefse) and sweet (rosette)?

That’s talk savory first. Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread made up of potatoes (boiled and riced), milk (or cream) and flour, and cooked on a griddle. The result is an almost crispy marriage of a tortilla and gnocchi. Normally eaten with lunchmeats or, more traditionally, lutefisk (air-dried whitefish and lye), Lefse can usually be found in church basements, being skillfully assembled along a line of discerning Norwegian grandmothers. Really, would you trust any one else?!

Now, how about the sweet? Rosettes, while also popular year-round, really gain traction around the holiday season. Think of them as a Scandanavian funnel cake. Like the carnival treat, rosettes are fried. However, various specialty rosette irons and forms are necessary, which can make rosettes, especially for first timers, seem daunting.

As with pizzelles, we recommend mentally preparing yourself to discard the first batch, since the chances for imperfection are high. The basics? Heat the rosette iron to a very high temperature, dip it in your batter, then dip it into the hot oil to fry. The resulting cookie is crisp, sweet and delicious.

Here are some more helpful hints:

Use a thermometer specifically made for the high oil temperatures. A deep fry thermometer that can remain in the oil works best, so you can continually monitor the temperature and adjust as needed.

Use oil that will withstand the high temperature for prolonged periods of time, such as canola or peanut oils.

Season the molds before using for the first time. Following the basic instructions in our seasoning tutorial, you’ll get the best results by putting them on a pan or cookie sheet in the oven, or, alternately, by keeping them dipped in 350°F oil for about 15 minutes.

When using shell-type rosettes, leave the mold in the batter long enough to give the cup a chance to form. It must be solid enough to fill with your favorite garnishment.

To make crispier rosettes, cover and refrigerate the batter at least 2 hours before using.

Important: Do not cover entire mold with batter, or the cookie will get stuck on the mold. Only allow the batter to cover 3/4 of the way up the mold.

If excess batter adheres to the top of the mold, use a knife to remove the excess, then cook as usual.

If the batter does not adhere to the mold, check the temperature of the oil. For best results, keep the oil at 365°F.

Rosettes can be stored in airtight containers for months. They also can be frozen, ready for any occasion. If needed, re-crisp in minutes in a 300°F oven.

Day 12: Wine!

Vinturi Wine Aerator

The Vinturi in Action

While not really a dish, wine is arguably the most popular holiday consumable of all time. It’s a seemingly ubiquitous presence at many family functions and seems to have been the drink of choice for thousands of years. Nowadays, demand has made delicious wines widely available to the average consumer, and they couldn’t be happier. In fact, we’re having a glass right now

OK, not really. But we carry a lot of great wine-centered items, like the Vinturi Wine Aerator, essential to unlocking the full flavor and perfume of the wine… unless you’ve taken the boxed wine route. Then you’re on your own. Others, like the Wine and Food Matching Wheel, unlock different mysteries, like how that Pinot Noir will play with the braised short ribs (hint: very well!). A customer favorite is the colorful specialty wine tote bags, designed to keep your bottle safe (and cool) on-the-go…though, we don’t recommend opening the bottle on the go. You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that’s against the law!

_____________________________

We hope you enjoyed checking out our 12 Dishes of Christmas as much as we enjoyed writing it! Be sure to check back with us soon. Happy Holidays, from the Fante’s family to yours!

Swedish Meatballs image by By Silar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons



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