Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RECIPE: Christmas favorites from our house

Now, before I get started, let me just tell you that we are not highbrow foodies at our house; much to Susie's glee, we still sprinkle paprika on deviled eggs around here, a practice which she assures us went out with Donna Reed as she falls laughing about the kitchen. If we're feeling really fancy, we garnish them with half of a stuffed green olive.

The recipes I'm getting ready to type all come from that magical era of 1930s-1940s United States culinary magnificence that nearly drove 1950s foodie humorists Peg Bracken (The I Hate To Cook Book, A Window Over the Sink) and Betty MacDonald (The Egg and I, Onions in the Stew, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series) to the brink of despair. But we love them. They are fattening, laden with cholesterol and unrepentantly bad for you. But if you die while eating these things, you will die with a small onion-scented burp on your smiling lips, happy and replete. If you don't like fattening, artery-clogging treats at Christmas, then go gnaw on a celery stick, Mr. Scrooge. I just don't want to hear it.

Smorgasbord Cheese Ball

2 8-oz packages cream cheese

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 4-oz tub crumbled bleu cheese

3-4 dashes bottled hot pepper sauce

3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 cup chopped pecans (toasted, if you prefer)

Soften the cream cheese and combine the next four ingredients. Shape into a ball; chill for 3-4 hours. Roll in chopped pecan pieces. Serve with crackers, celery sticks or toast soldiers. Garnish with breath mints on the side.

Sister-in-Law Angie's Cousin-by-Marriage Debbie's Beef and Onion Cheese Ball

2 8-oz packages cream cheese

3 2-ounce packages chipped beef, diced into very small pieces

6 scallions, chopped in small pieces (I usually just call them 'green onions,' but 'scallions' is just so fun to type. It has that Julia Child je ne sais quois that I simply can't resist.)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Soften cream cheese; combine remaining ingredients in bowl. Shape into a ball and chill for 3-4 hours. Serve with crackers, veggies, etc. Keep those breath mints handy from the first cheeseball recipe.

Scotch Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened, and if you use margarine, I will personally come to your house and harm you. Don't think you can get away with it, either, because I. Will. Know.

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 300F. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy; add almond extract and mix to combine. Add flour gradually, mixing to form a soft dough. Roll out on a pastry sheet to a nice thickness, thick enough to make a nice, chewy cookie and not so thin that you come out with a Scotch cracker. It's Christmas; be generous. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with colored sugar, or better still, touch each cookie with a little dab of homemade frosting; we like Vanilla Buttercream or Lemon Buttercream. This is what we like to leave out for Santa. Heh.

Nanny's Christmas Breakfast Casserole

2# spicy sausage, browned and drained

12 slices bread, broken

12 eggs

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

2 T. dried mustard

2 small onions, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and transfer to greased 9x13 casserole dish. Refrigerate overnight. On Christmas morning, carefully gauging the time when everyone will be done unwrapping presents and is beginning to feel hungry and maybe a little cross from being up too late and rising too early, slide into a preheated 350F oven; bake for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve with coffee, icy cold orange juice and maybe some cinnamon rolls or sour cream coffee cake.

Nanny says that we have had this casserole every single Christmas Day since 1982. She gets really annoyed if anyone tries to make it on any other day of the year. Somehow, perhaps in the same way that I. Will. Know. If you're using margarine on that Scotch Shortbread instead of God's true butter, she can sense that I am making it for a Saturday night treat dinner from 35 miles away.

The phone will ring. I will answer with trepidation.

"Sunshine?" she'll say in a grim, portentous voice.

"Yes, Mommy?" I say meekly.

"You're making It, aren't you?"

"I do not know what you're talking about."

"Has the calendar completely escaped me? Is this Christmas Day? Are you at my house? Did you fill out a form in triplicate and submit it to the proper department before attempting to concoct this controlled substance?"

"No, I did not. But I halved the recipe and I'm baking it in an 8x8 casserole. It isn't the same."

"It is the same thing. And I raised you better than that. No more! Understand, rubber band? Eat it and sin no more."

1 comment:

Kbg said...

It's good to laugh this early in the post, very fun.

Thanks for the recipes...warms my heart to see things like this being promulgated about (I figured I needed to stretch my vocab use in these comments as you are freely tossing about words like "replete" which I don't use nearly enough these days). I will make the first cheeseball in your honor for Christmas Eve here, okay? And, I am sure it will be a big hit.

Confession time: I, too, am a Paprika sprinkler...actually I sprinkle half with Paprika and half with Dill Weed...and at Christmas they are very festive, looking so cute with their red and green. Long live the Paprika sprinklers. Susie, we are just going to have to convert you a.s.a.p Look for that Donna Reed apron in your stocking this year!