Fortunately there are many new food traditions we have adopted and are hopefully passing on to my children. In the spirit of the season, I'd like to share a few of them here.
Good Beer: While there is always room for wine at the dinner table, beer is my drink of choice between meals. The good folk at Firefly have a terrific selection of craft brews from North America, as well as a wide variety of European brews. I love the Belgian beers, and often pick up 1/2 a dozen of the 750ml bottles. Pair this with a selection of cheese (Stilton and Compté are favorites) and you can hunker down during any winter storm.
Chinese Food: We're not talking some of the fine Chinese meals I've enjoyed with my good friend Lee. Christmas Eve dinner in my house has been Chinese delivery ever since I can remember. Beef Broccoli, Sweet & Sour Pork, Egg Rolls ... and of course the leftovers that accompany them. We have a favorite local joint that makes a killer Ma Paul Tofu and a Ginger & Spring Onion Chicken (bone in!) that has thankfully taken the place of the day-glo orange Sweet & Sour Pork.
Wife-Saver: Back in the late 70's, I was introduced to something called the "Wife-Saver Breakfast Bake." Essentially a savoury bread pudding, this dish was a staple at our Christmas morning breakfast table. My version features corn-bread in place of the Texas toast, bacon from J,N & Z Deli, and Gruyere instead of Cheddar. The original is good as well, but I'll be making mine with corn bread from now on.
The dish is assembled the night before, and left to "blend" in the fridge overnight. Christmas morning, while the rug-rats are opening their gifts, you simply pop the dish in the oven for an hour and relax with an eggnog latté. For the health-conscious you can also add a fruit salad.
This year, my brother and his wife hosted the family dinner and asked me if I could contribute. I agreed, thinking it would be a simple process during the lazy days before Christmas, However, our recent snow-storm(s) changed that happy dream by complicating travel and fire-making. What the cold temperatures did do however was make brining the turkey much simpler. I brine for 24 hours in a mixture of apple juice, brown sugar, salt, cloves, ginger and bay-leaves. Because the brining period is so long, the challenge is keeping the temperature low enough for the duration. Nothing a cooler in a snow-bank can't solve.
I smoked the turkey on Christmas morning. The process is a little different than other smokes I've done. For one, the water pan in the smoker is left empty. This allows the temperature to get up to 325F which reduces the smoking time to about 3 hours. The other benefit of an empty water pan is drippings ... SMOKED turkey drippings which make a pretty amazing gravy.
Pinot Noir. As an additional benefit, we'll take the carcase and simmer it with a couple onions and some carrots to create a rich smoked turkey stock. Turkey soup never tasted so good!
So while we dig ourselves out from all this snow and try to figure out what we're going to do with all the leftovers, I'd like to wish you the Merriest of Christmas's, and the peace and joy of the season to you and yours.