Christmas Eve Dinner was an eclectic success. Classic American Fare? Classic Italian Fare? Some of both. With a large dollop of Southern Food thrown in for grins. We opened with Proseccos, and followed up with eggplant Parmesan and then moved to the piece de resistance, the mail-order, deep-fried turkey. Tacchino Fritto?
MIDGE’S HOLIDAY PANETONE RISES TO THE OCCASION!
NEW ENGLAND— Christmas Eve Dinner was an eclectic success. Classic American Fare? Classic Italian Fare? Some of both. With a large dollop of Southern Food thrown in for grins. We opened with Proseccos, and followed up with eggplant Parmesan and then moved to the piece de resistance, the mail-order, deep-fried turkey. Tacchino Fritto? Chi lo sai. It was all aces, but we had to feel Wicked Proud of the Panetone. Who knew you could actually make that at home? Could. And did. To be on theme, (and because we did not have many of the prescribed ramekins) we baked the cakes in oversized cappuccino cups. Worked like a charm. And the homemade Panettone was much moister and fresher tasting than the store-bought ones we have had in the past. Another benefit was that our whole house was redolent with the perfume of the little Panettones for the whole evening.
The next morning, Christmas Day, we had those Panetones, again. This time, for a late brunch: Omelet’s to order, Panettone with blackberry jam, and of course Cheesy Grits. True Multi-cultural Christmas Joy!
Speaking of things Italian and American Brunch: One of our life goals is to do our version of Brunch for our Italians friends sometime soon. The concept of eating Non Italian food will probably initially scare them half to death I’m sure, ma va le la pena (worth the pain). When pressed, most Italians will admit that they have heard Americans skip plates and eat straight out of cans that we buy in the SuperMart. And that we have only recently tumbled to the idea of using a fork to extract the food from the can. Well! Don’t they know we have moved up to Microwave Food? No matter. I have a secret weapon in mind to help win them over to our evil ways. As conservative and xenophobic in taste as Italians are about food, I have a way to help take away some of the fear: Maple syrup. Strange, but true. We have used it as a regional Maine Pride present to many of our Italian friends and so far, over the years, the reaction has been universal: cosmic, undying, How Have I Lived My Life Without This? So, my plan is that if I lead with Maine Maple Syrup and pancakes on the menu, I may be able to segue into Cheese Grits when our friends’ guard is down.
In the meantime, Happy San Stefano’s Day You do know that today, the day after Christmas, is a holiday of sorts in Italy? San Stefano’s Day is like Boxing Day in the British Empire. But rather than being all about presents etc. in Umbria it is all about Tombola! It is like Bingo. But it has more personality. Every number has a nickname and story to go with it. The Tombola games themselves are fun trip souvenirs, not to mention that they are a good way to motivate yourself to learn Italian numbers and counting. And it is a pressure-packed learning device, as you have to be quick with yelling those numbers out and getting them right. Playing in a town-wide Tombola is exciting. If you find yourself in Italy over the holidays, ask around and chances are good there will be a game and it will surely be open to the public. Well, that is what we did one year. And I won a Hair Dryer. Now, if I only had enough hair to need said hair dryer. Sigh. Oh, well, the girls in the family were impressed. And isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be all about?
Allora, Buona Stagione a Tutti!
So, why is Midge in her apron? What’s cooking, Midge? Panetone? Yes, indeed. We’re braving up to try making the tradional Italian Holiday treat. Is it cake is it bread, I really do not know. But when in Italy it seems they are everywhere. Except on forks. Do they actually eat them?
WINTERWONDERLAND, MAINE— Where am I? Really. Good question. Where haven’t we been this month? Everywhere but putting up blog stories, it appears. Gathering Material. Yes. That’s it. You know, just like Hemmingway fighting the matador’s bulls or wrestling mutant Marlins into his fishing boat. Or not. But in the last thirty days time we have spent some long, fun weekends in NYC, London and Limestone, Maine. More on the London to Limestone sagas coming up. And Wiley has a big blog backlog direct from Italy that she is polishing up in Harold Wood outside London right now. But for today, we are grateful to have most of our family sitting right here at the dining room table. Zak, of NYC, bent over a growing chart, pen in hand, doing NYC Dutch ancestory genealogy, Midge in her “OLIO” cooking apron talking to the missing Wiley in London, and baby Grayson holding a bag of frozen peas on her jaw where her wisdom teeth came out yesterday. Poverina, figlia minora. She’s in good spirits and ready for whatever the holiday and Babbo Natale is about to bring her.
So, why is Midge in her apron? What’s cooking, Midge? Panetone? Yes, indeed. We’re braving up to try making the tradional Italian Holiday treat. Is it cake is it bread, I really do not know. But when in Italy it seems they are everywhere. Except on forks. Do they actually eat them? Not so much, is my observation. Sometimes I think they are more atmosphere than cuisine. Occasionally they are put out of their decorative boxes and nibbled with Prosecco. Anyway, we are growing our own, sans decorative box. It sounds like a proper family fun holiday activity. You stir this. I’ll chop that. You find the yeast. And it goes on all day if I read correctly the instructions in “Italian Cooking” magazine. Dec 05 to Jan 06 Holiday Issue. That recipe rocks. Available in newstands as they say. The recipe on their website sounded like a very complicated train wreck and we would have never even attempted that one, sissies that we are. More news on our Italian pastry dessert cooking experiment as it becomes available.
We will probably be the only people in Maine having homemade Panetone with Cajun Turkey. Totally random culinary combination. Never look a gift turkey in the mouth. Oh, wait, ready to eat, fresh from the store turkeys don’t have a mouth. But we do and it will be great. Midge’s Nashville brother Kix had this fried turkey flown up to Maine and she found it waiting on our doorstep when she went on her humanitarian cappuccino run: LOOK WHAT I FOUND! Hey, hey, you HAVE had “southern deep fried turkey” , haven’t you? Please, please say yes. Or quick, put it on your life goals list.
As the fried turkey indicates, we may not be in Italy for the holidays but with emails coming in from our Italian Home Away From Home we are feeling the love and day dreaming about different times we have been in Umbria for Christmas and New Years. Good times all.
Well, as our red and gold Italian Holiday Banner here at the top of the page says BF, UE, OS, NT, EE (Buone Feste) to all!