Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Cooking!

Well, Christmas has come and gone, and I thought I'd give you a quick rundown on the culinary highlights. My ex-husband is here on his annual visit, and he made his famous mujuddarah. This is basically lentils, rice and carmelized onions - its the same lentil pottage for which Esau sold his birthright. This is a staple lenten meal for middle eastern Orthodox.

On Sunday, Christmas Eve, our parish held what has become a yearly tradition - a parish-wide Holy Supper. Each year we become more traditional in our Holy Supper. It was delicious and featured shrimp, pea soup, kutia, barley, bread and honey, garlic, potatoes, vegetables and pierogi. YUM!

I had been asked to bring some corn to the Holy Supper, but in the last minute rush, it didn't get put out, so I took it home and made corn chowder for dinner. I love chowders of all kinds - I *am* from New England, after all - but corn is my absolute favorite.

Dear Daughter and I had decided to simplify our gift giving this year, so I made pizzelles to give away on Christmas Day. These are a thin and crispy pancake type of a cookie, not too sweet, that is made in a special type of waffle iron. My little cousin Andrea is the Queen of Pizzelles. Really. I got her recipe last year and made the traditional anise flavored ones. This year, I made two batches - one was lemon flavored and one was gingerbread flavored. Its been very damp and rainy here, so they are not as crispy as is traditional, and a few stuck together, but they are still very, very delicious and perfect with capuccino or espresso.

This brings me to Christmas Day dinner..... I had invited Josie and Tim, some college-aged friends of DD and me again, and Josie doesn't eat pork or beef. Last year, I served them chicken cooked in wine from my grandmother's recipe, but I wasn't in the mood for it again. Then I remembered how, when my folks were alive and I was still married, on Christmas Eve we'd have pasta with seven different kinds of fish and shellfish, so I asked Josie if they ate seafood (they did) and that was my plan. But then I started thinking about maybe making it more like a soup, maybe bouillabaise or cioppino. And that's what I did. The ex bought all the seafood, and as I knew he would, he bought the best and lots of it. It was a very, very generous Christmas present for us - thank you, Jerry! For dessert, we had a selection of traditional Slovak kolachky cookies that DD made with her Baba Dorothy, baqlawa and pizzelles.
Tonight....... STEAK!
This past year has been a difficult one for myself and dear daughter personally, and for our parish community as well. But we have much to be thankful for! Our beautiful new church is completed and will be consecrated in June. DD has begun high school and is doing extremely well, and has broadened her horizons. Now that she is out in the world a little bit, she has made some very nice friends, including a terrific "special" friend. I've adjusted to my new job which I enjoy, though the paycheck leaves a LOT to be desired! I've rededicated myself to iconography and choir directing, and many blessings have come from that. We have wonderful friends and family, and most of the drama that complicated our lives has dropped away. Our family, friends and pets are well. We have our faith, which colors all aspects of our lives. We are very blessed.
Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace! Goodwill to men!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Christ is from Heaven, go to meet Him! Christ is on earth, be lifted up! Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and praise Him with joy and gladness, for He has been glorified! (1st ode of the Christmas Canon)
6 - 7 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 head fennel, sliced, including feathery green fronds
1 Tbs fennel seed
1 - 2 Tbs Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes in juice, squished into little pieces
2 C dry red wine
1/2 C brandy
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
2 quarts clam juice or fish stock
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing
30 littleneck clams in the shell (5 per person)
2 lbs cooked crab legs in the shell (frozen is ok)
2 lbs shrimp, raw, in shell
2 lbs halibut, cut into 2" pieces
2 lbs sea scallops
In a heavy bottomed, 8 quart (or larger) pot, saute the garlic and onions in olive oil until transparent. Stir in the fennel, fennel seed, herbes de Provence and saute until fennel is aromatic and crisp/tender. Add in the crushed red pepper and tomato paste, sauteeing until the tomato paste turns a dark, rich red - about 2 or 3 minutes. Add more oil if necessary to keep from burning. Stir in the wine and brandy and let simmer for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol. Scrape up any bits that are stuck. Add in the tomatoes with their juice and the clam juice and let simmer together for about a half hour or so, to meld all the flavors. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. Be careful about the salt, because the clams, in particular, will add more saltiness to the broth.
Now, get your serving bowls ready, and preheat your oven at 200F for about 4 or 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. You will use your oven to keep the fish and seafood warm until its time to eat. You will cook each type of seafood separately in the broth, remove to a platter, and keep them warm in the oven. First, submerge the crab in the broth until it is heated through and remove. Next, submerge the clams and remove the minute they pop open. Next, submerge the shrimp until just pink. Next, submerge the sea scallops and fish together until opaque and cooked through and remove. Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust - you will be amazed at the depth of flavor that the different kinds of seafood have imparted!
To serve, place some of all the different kinds of seafood in your bowl and ladle the broth over. Pass out bibs, nutcrackers and lots of napkins. Sop up all the broth with lots of crusty french bread. I'm almost swooning just remembering how good it was!
Sad to say, there is not one drop left. The five of us were licking our plates as well as our fingers. Can you say OINK?


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Anonymous said...

Christ is Born!

I don't comment, but I read and take notes. I do appreciate all the recipes and the comments about your life.

May you have a glorious feast!