Christmas traditions

23 Dec

My parents both grew up rather poor and in another era. So our Christmas traditions were ones we made ourselves in our tiny nuclear family.  My mother was also an anglophile so many of the traditions echoed something out of a Victorian novel.  Christmas food traditions however never stuck (except for cinnamon rolls by the tree) which has in itself become sort of a tradition.  The closest Christmas Dinner food tradition we had was that my mother loved to set food on fire. Not in a bad way mind you. Flambe. Baked Alaska, Hard Sauce for our plum pudding, Duck* a la orange, all set aflame one Christmas or another.

So in my family, our Christmas food tradition (along with the cinnamon rolls) follows my whim**.  Basically, I plan a meal that makes sense to me for Christmas. It’s exciting. It’s strange. It’s traditional (I got vetoed on the Goose this year though). It’s new-to-me.  Something about it screams festive to me that year.  The funny thing is, I can’t really remember what we’ve had in the past. The tradition is more about the conferencing with the family to pick a menu, the planning, the execution, and the enjoyment.  I guess it isn’t a traditional tradition, but if feels right to me.

If anyone actually reads this blog (hahahahahahahahah, I kill me!) I’d love to hear about other people’s Christmas food traditions.  In the meantime, our menu for this year is as follows…

*Somewhere around the middle of my childhood my mother found out that Ducks mated for life. After that she never served just one duck. I’m not kidding. If we had duck, we had two. It didn’t matter that there were only three people in our family, we cooked ducks in pairs.

**Actually we always have mashed potatoes.  Sometimes they are truffled or otherwise embellished, but mashed potatoes always adorn our Christmas table.


(Last night watched Gordon Ramsey’s Christmas traditions and he made a mulled wine with Lemongrass which he served with spiced almonds. I’m trying to figure out where I can work that into my festivities.  Maybe on the 23rd after my father arrives and after we go out to eat at Aladdin’s where my wretched teenage son is a waiter.)

(We had already decided on Beef Wellington before seeing the show, but it was a happy coincidence since he gave me the idea of including Chestnuts in the duxelles. I’m just going to fuse his method w the recipe below.)

Christmas Eve:

Last year we tried to do some version of the feast of the seven (9? 12?) fishes. It didn’t work. Too much trouble with a lot of other hubbub going on.

Lobsters with Vanilla Butter

Risotto of some sort (that will depend on what produce and or cheese selections strike my fancy tomorrow at 6 am when I hit the strip)

Beans and Greens, Italian Style (Escarole, white beans, anchovies)

Heavily Spiked Egg Nog

Christmas lunch


Cheese selection from Penn Mac (impossible to predict)

Cured meats from strip

Caponata made with IPA

Other marinated and cured veg

Gorgonzola Cheesecake

Christmas Dinner

Beef Wellington

Sicilian Brussels Sprouts, with Pancetta, Pine Nuts, and Yellow Raisins

Asparagus w Pecorino Romano, Lemon Zest and Truffle Oil***

Mashed Potatoes/Truffled

Lentil Loaf (for the kids and Vegan guest)

Beet salad

Milk Chocolate Mousse w Whipped Crem Fresh and Port Ganache

***I. Love. Truffles.  I cannot hyperbolize my love for these little fungi.  If I lust after food in general, you do not want to know how I feel about truffles specifically.


3 Responses to “Christmas traditions”

  1. MP December 23, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Although I grew up in a family where the grandfathers were Italian (but married good Czech/French and Scotch-Irish women), I never experienced a Feast of the Seven Fishes Christmas Eve until I was married to my (100%) Italian husband. Nowadays I love to honor that tradition, albeit in a smaller way, each Christmas Eve. Recipes rotate by year. This year will be seared scallops, linguine with clam or red crab sauce, shrimp, eggplant parmigiana, tomato, garlic and goat cheese bruschetta.

    Christmas Day dinner has to be roast beef (after all that fish)!

    I did not know about his blog although I follow you on Twitter. I will certainly check it out now!

  2. Jamie December 24, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    It all sounds great, but may I please come for Christmas lunch?

  3. Lauren Kinghorn December 24, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    Hi Jennifer,
    I made Beef Wellington this week in honor of my brother who moved to New Zealand for the year as a Fulbright Scholar. (I do love to brag about him) Not that we were celebrating his departure, rather the dish originated in Wellington. Tomorrow, I am thinking about making Moussaka, a greek dish with lamp and eggplant. This will sure please the children, not. My husband will have to help me in the kitchen tomorrow to have this dinner be a success. I too am knew to Christmas traditional meals. My family always ate Chinese with friends on Christmas Eve and spent the morning at the airport going somewhere warm. Now I work hard and create some magic for my children to remember. Best of luck! I will be praying and thinking of you. Peace and Light, Lauren

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