Food offers us much more than just nourishment; it is an element not to dismiss, especially during the holidays when it simply brings us together. In this lip smacking article, discover the secrets of excelling in selecting and revamping three major festive comfort foods. Nevertheless, this does not mean that one should underestimate everything else, such as smoked and roasted lamb, slow cooked soups’n stews, pudding and gingerbread.
Turkey is a crowd-pleaser, and while there is no perfect roasted turkey, nations around the world have tried to perfect cooking it. Marinating this bird for a night or two brings a great depth to the meat. Aside from the regular stuffing ingredients, the French add chestnuts to instill a smoky and earthy flavor together with bread crumbs and essential herbs.
The Middle Eastern recipe chooses the pomegranate to make a bang. On the wild side, the Mexicans enjoy a sweet and spicy medley of ground pork, tart green apples, bananas, toasted almonds, jalapeno chilies, and tomato paste.
Brining the turkey is Hong Kong’s specialty; it adds moisture to the bird and makes it difficult to dry out and overcook. For brine, combine 8 liters of water with sea salt, white sugar, oregano, crushed cloves, bay and thyme leaves, dried sour cherries, and fresh rinds of orange and lemon.
If your favorite part of the roasted turkey is the skin, look no further than these two options: the Ceia de Natal (Brazil) of which the skin is watered with both lime juice and Cachaça/light rum, and the Canadian classic recipe where simple aromatic herbs (e.g. sage and marjoram) lend gentle flavors to the meat and a butter rub makes the skin crisp and golden.
If you wish to experiment with a different kind of bird, consider duck (e.g. stuffed with apples and prunes – Denmark), geese (e.g. stuffed with liver pate and served with red currant glazed peaches – Germany), or pheasant.
The tastiest part of Christmas cake is its versatility. Australia’s Granny’s Christmas cake favors raisins, currants, and sultanas, and is showered with almond, lemon, vanilla essence, marmalade jam, mixed spices, cinnamon, ginger powder, and brandy.
The Indian recipe mixes candied peel with dried nuts, dark rum with cardamom and nutmeg. Aside from dried or candied fruits, the Chilean Christmas sponge cake (Pan de Pascua) throws in a pinch of strong local flavors like ground cloves, brewed coffee, anise flavor liquor, and brandy/pisco/rum.
Speaking of national pride, the majesty of the whiskey cannot be denied in Irish cuisines. The day before baking, spices and fruits, nuts and peel, zest and juice lie in a half cup of whiskey. Likewise, the cake’s traditional topping is a layer of whiskey-flavored marzipan followed by Royal Icing.
On the wacky side, the Japanese style Christmas sponge cake is a white cream cake frosted with whipped cream, topped with strawberries, and a chocolate plate that says Merry Christmas.
On the other hand, there is the Portuguese privilege tradition. Their recipe tastes more like sweet bread. It limits itself to a delicious fusion of basic ingredients, and conceals a large fava bean in it. The insertion of the bean comes from the legend of the Three Kings who followed the Star of Bethlehem on their way to greet baby Jesus. Whoever ends up with the bean is expected to make the Bolo Rei for the coming year.
New Year Food for Good Luck
Certain foods can appease our troubles and boost our optimism, especially when the New Year is near. Tangerines and oranges, as well as cornbread, are praised for their golden color – symbol of the riches to come, a dish of lentils for its abundance in seeds – symbol of affluence, a meal of soba for the length of the noodle – symbol of longevity.
To wish luck, the Chinese offer a tray of togetherness. It consists of filling eight cups with eight sorts of delights; reserved kumquats for prosperity, coconut for conviviality, red melon for happiness, etc. However, you can customize your servings to better suit your community’s traditions and values.
The Spanish consume a dozen grapes before midnight to predict the coming year; a sweet grape corresponds to a good year, a sour grape is a warning sign. Enact this ritual by threading grapes onto skewers and serving them in a glass of champagne just before the countdown.
For dessert, surprise your guests with a personal interpretation of Oliebollen (Netherlands) and/or Kransekage (Denmark and Norway). Oliebollens can be served as a light and fruity version of the very popular lomet il adi (aka Awwameh). Kransekage is a tower composed of round rings of cake layered atop one another. Consider replacing cakes with an assortment of Arabic sweets, sugar/chocolate coated dates, baklava, etc. Go crazy decorating your tower with ornaments, died syrup, cotton candy, crackers, or candy canes.
Now that you are offered a good starting point, it is your time to shine. Do a little research. Read a little. Imagine a little. Ask the elderly for hearty, healthy, and classic recipes. Ask connoisseur acquaintances about the hazards of cooking hefty and probably fatty birds, about dealing with combustible alcohol or powder sugar. Embark on a culinary adventure, armed with a spatula, a jolly hum, and a Christmas carol.