Those who follow these posts are aware that since last year Renata and I decided just to spend Christmas Eve with each other instead of inviting people over or going to someone else’s home. I guess we just got tired of dealing with folks who call to cancel at the last minute or are critical of your selected playlist. Then there’s that annoying guy who thinks Christmas is about draining a full bottle of Jameson’s before the midnight hour hits.
The first year we tried this out I feared that we’d find ourselves feeling lonely because after all, the Holidays are all about friends and family, but last Christmas was one of the best we’ve had so far – we cooked, exchanged presents, ate and went to midnight mass – no stress, no fear of saying the wrong thing (as I am liable to do at times, especially after that second glass of wine) or anything like that – just husband and wife spending the evening together and having a great time at it.
When it comes to Polish, American and Brazilian Christmas traditions, thoughts are geared towards eating, so it is sometimes hard to agree what to make for dinner. According to Renata, in Poland folks abstain from any blood-letting meat before midnight and consume either vegetarian or fish-based dishes. Brazilians love their roast turkey, glazed ham or baked codfish (the latter which I have repeatedly made over the years – it’s really great).
In America, dishes vary according to the region, but it’s usually meats with stuffing alongside roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes with gravy. And then there’s the eggnog (also called ponche in the Dominican Republic – something I discovered this year).
Last year we went a little insane with the food – Renata made her layered fish (marinated herring, potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise, carrots) and also worked with a neighbor to make pierogis, mushroom dumplings and beetroot soup while I busied myself with the codfish and a bunch of side dishes I can no longer remember (I did write about it in an earlier post, but after looking back at it, there was no mention of them, so…). We wound up reheating them for days on end and until very recently a bag of pierogies were still in the freezer.
This year we are keeping things a little simpler. I researched a few recipes and we are putting the finishing touches on the menu, which will include the Polish stuff mentioned before plus a few seafood and pasta-based dishes I recently found after browsing through my cookbooks.
On one of the final years that Renata and I went out for Christmas, it was a collaborative dinner in which everyone made something. My contribution was a lentil and sausage soup (traditionally from Italy) which I made nervously as one of the guests just happened to be a highly respected Italian chef. Thank God it turned out all right (the chef did not cringe, at least) – I would not have been able to live with myself otherwise.
For all of you, may you enjoy a great Christmas (or if you don’t celebrate it, enjoy that Chinese food and a movie) – catch up with you soon.
Sausage and Lentil Soup
(reproduced from Epicurious)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
• 1 celery rib, finely chopped
• 1 1/4 cups lentils (preferably French green)
• 6 cups water
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 4 oz smoked sausage (for Xmas eve I used vegetarian sausage)
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, water, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to moderate and cook, covered, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
While lentils are cooking, heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown sausage on all sides, about 5 minutes. Cool sausage slightly on a cutting board, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Add sausage to soup and stir in vinegar.