What's Your Christmas Tradition?
A recent e-mail from "Dionysia," a reader in Adelaide, S. Australia, prompted today's post about Christmas feasting traditions. In her note, she writes:
We usually have a cold Christmas lunch with prawns and interesting salads and my mum's stuffing (It's a Greek recipe, and she bakes them in muffin tins now, and freezes them.) No one that keen here on Christmas pudding, so I do my Strawberry tart and mum does her Greek trifle.
Over in the Southern hemisphere, where swimming is more likely than sledding on Christmas Day, a cooling repast sounds just about right. Alas, climate doesn't determine all menus -- I've been to Christmas lunches in the sunny eastern Caribbean, where the spread includes heat-stoking dishes such as oven-roasted ham, macaroni pie and fried fish -- oh, and lots of rum.
Culinary holiday traditions are as equally imprinted by several other indelible ingredients -- family history, ethnic background, country culture, migration or expatriation, plus what's on hand from local soil and waters.
Burt, who's "not really Swiss" but has made Geneva, Switzerland home,writes:
Here in Geneva, the local Christmas side dish is "gratin de chardons." For "chardons" my French-English dictionary gives "thistles," which is certainly what the things (in a state of nature) look like. But they may be what Iâ€¨ have seen referred to in English as "cardoons." In any case, I don't know how to cook them, and today even those Genevese who do know the traditional recipe tend to buy them in jars at the supermarket, so as to avoid the â€¨hassle of getting the untrimmed vegetable, which looks like a small broom into a cookable state.
So here's a not-so-Swiss guy eating cardoons on Christmas because when in...that's what's done.
He also shared a recipe for rillettes de saumon (details below jump), plus how-to instructions for "Karin's saffron bun recipe," a Swedish treat that Burt says "we have been eating throughout Advent."
So you can see there's lots of room for interpretation on what constitutes tradition at the Christmas table. I love how cultures mix and mingle and dishes get passed around the globe, which leads me to my question for the day: What's the tradition in your family on Christmas? Is there one dish that inevitably appears year after year and without which the holiday wouldn't be the same? Wherever you live or from wherever you come, share traditions, recipes and stories from the Christmas table. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, perhaps there's something your family does to pass the time while much of the Western world shuts down for 24 hours.
And on that note, I'm signing off for a few days so I can start some kind of Christmas tradition with Mister Mighty Appetite. I'll resurface in this space on Thursday, Dec. 27. Here's to a safe and delicious holiday!
Burt's Rillettes de Saumon
(KOD note: This recipe has not been tested. I have converted metric amounts into Western measurements as well.)
Writes Burt: "This is not exclusively a Christmas dish, but lotsâ€¨ of families in French-speaking countries serve it on Christmas.
1/2 pound fresh salmonâ€¨â€¨
1/2 cup dry white wineâ€¨â€¨
1 tablespoon olive oilâ€¨â€¨
1/2 pound smoked salmon (in a single piece)
1 cup butter, slightly softened (2 sticks)
salt and pepper
Remove the skin from the fresh salmon, and cut the meat into small cubes.â€¨ Poach the cubes in the white wine over very gentle heat. Drain the poached fish. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the poached fish, while crumbling (or "flaking") with a fork. Be careful not to let it take color. Remove from pan and set aside.
Cut smoked salmon into small cubes and sautÃ© gently in six tablespoons of the butter, without letting them take color. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the frying pan.
Once cooled, place smoked salmon into a (I've forgotten theâ€¨word for the appliance that you use to puree things. My mother-in-lawâ€¨called in an osterizer, but I think there's another word) food processor.
Adding the remaining butter a little at a time, purÃ©e the smoked salmon until it is very smooth. Put the puree into a bowl and into it fold the flaked fresh salmon. Taste, and season as necessary.â€¨â€¨
Refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Serve with warm toast. Makes four servings.
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