By Ernest Barteldes
Regular readers of this blog are quite aware that we don’t do the traditional “American” Thanksgiving of visiting families and stuffing ourselves with turkey and eggnog – we head out to the tropics for a good time under the sun. Unfortunately, such a luxury cannot be had at Christmas, and since we have no family members within a 1,000-mile radius (the closest is in Chicago, and then Kansas – after that it’s Brazil and Poland), Renata and I usually spend it just with each other, enjoying a plethora of international Christmas dishes from all our cultures and beyond.
It didn’t always use to be like this, though. Over the years, we either hosted a dinner for friends without close relatives around or visited with other friends who’d have us over, but we stopped doing that after a number of fiascos that I’d rather completely forget about (including a case of a guy who came over and went through an entire bottle of scotch and picked fights with other guests before being ultimately kicked out of the apartment) we decided it would be better if we spent the Holiday on our own with less stress and more tranquility.
The dishes we make are a mix of staples and new ideas: Renata always makes her annual traditional Polish herring layered with potatoes, carrots, onions, mayonnaise, eggs and dill (there are many recipes out there, which vary from family to family – they are so personal that I have found absolutely no equivalent online to date – the only similar one being “Herring Under a Fur Coat” that also includes beets but probably tastes quite different due to that extra ingredient. Other usual staples include other traditional Polish wigilia foods such as “uszka” (pronounced ‘ushka’) and beetroot soup, while I provide more international fare which might include Portuguese oven-baked salted codfish layered with potatoes, onions and black olives and a generous amount of olive oil.
For reasons I really cannot fathom, we cook enough food for a small battalion and take days to consume the whole thing. I think this is the third or fourth year that we have done our little Christmas on our own, and we presently have no intention of changing that – sure, it could be more fun being in a big party filled with people, but there is always the chance of something going terribly wrong – and another weird Christmas is something we really don’t want to be a part of.
Among the traditional Brazilian recipes I like to make is “rabanada,” Portuguese variation on the French toast that is commonly served at Christmas there – it’s made with sliced baghettes and a mix of other ingredients – it is sweeter than its American counterpart, but it is also very enjoyable.
Source: A Taste of Home
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups 2% milk
- Oil for frying
- 1 loaf (8 ounces) French bread, cut into 1-inch slices
- In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon until blended. In a large shallow dish, whisk eggs and milk. Dip both sides of bread in egg mixture, soaking lightly.
- In an electric skillet, heat 1 in. of oil to 350°. Working with a few slices at a time, remove bread from egg mixture, allowing excess to drain, and fry 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
- Dip warm rabanadas in cinnamon-sugar to coat all sides. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 6 servings.