My Wee Little Christmas Dinner Tradition
#1 12-12-2018 
Well, here comes a lovely coincidence! Elucidation follows.

So after I played a major role in getting my mother and my father remarried back in 2012 (after 32 years of divorce, and if I've accomplished nothing else in this lifetime, I have accomplished that), I decided that a new Christmas tradition was in order. Decades before that, I came of age under my evil, abusive and roundly despised stepfather, who always insisted that we eat honey baked ham and turkey for Christmas. I hated him, and that loathing spread to honey baked ham and turkey for Christmas...psychological association and whatnot. With Mom divorcing that old buzzard, me moving back to Texas to be with Dad, Mom coming to Texas to visit me and everything else that followed, I decided that it was time for the Age of Honey Baked Christmas Ham to die and be buried once and for all.

But we had to eat something for Christmas dinner, right? So then it hit me: When I moved back to Texas in 2007, I celebrated my return to my real homeland by grabbing my copy of the Cowboy Cookbook and picking a recipe to cook for Dad. I opted for the Irish Stew, a recipe which settlers from Ireland brought with them when they emigrated to the young United States of America. Hoping for land and homes of their own, many of those Irish settlers joined the Westward Expansion into the frontier which would become the Midwestern United States, and with that came Irish wagoneers, Irish cowboys, Irish ranch hands and Irish every other walk of life on the frontier. And Irish stew — cooked from chopped veggies and mutton (though veal or pork made ready substitutes if lamb and mutton weren't available) — became a common dish served up in many a chuck wagon from there. So Dad and I cooked about a gallon of Irish stew, and it was great; we certainly didn't mind eating those leftovers for a day or two afterward.

From there, it seemed like expanding our horizons into the international kitchen could lead us away from stale old traditions and into the excitement and pizazz of culinary adventure. Granted, it's largely true that we Americans aren't very learned in geography and global politics, and much of that can be laid at the feet of our Congress and our elected (mis)representatives, endlessly stripping funds from our Education department and funneling them into anything from the Armed Forces to that million-dollar creek around Senator John Kerry's country house. While our shoddy public education system may be the result of mere Governmental thoughtlessness and incompetence, if I were to attribute any degree of malicious cunning to them, I would strongly suspect that our Government was doing this on purpose; stupid and uneducated people are easier to control (and easier to convince that the career politicians who have been ravishing them over a barrel for the past four years have actually been good to them and therefore deserve to be re-elected, again and again and again...), after all.

Fortunately, I have two edges on my side: 1) an elementary education in a private Catholic school (which did a great job of educating me, despite their daily attempts to force Jesus down my throat...) and 2) four years of Active Duty in the United States Air Force. The men and women of our Armed Forces are strongly encouraged to keep a thumb on the pulse of international relations, current events overseas and the global stage in general, because as world history has taught us time and time again, today's allies could become tomorrow's enemies, and vice-versa. How many of my fellow Americans know that we more or less invaded Algeria and Macedonia during the Clinton Administration (under which I served as a Senior Airman)? Not many; it was kept pretty hush-hush and was easily drowned out by the big, loud brouhaha with our five widely publicized campaigns in Bosnia (which happened despite most of the European Union saying, "Don't worry, we have this, we can take down Milosevic ourselves," but President Clinton was pigheaded like that). So I like to think that I know a little bit more about all of you non-Americans and your ways of life than the average American does. Don't hold it against me, now. Wink

So anyway, after confering with Mom and Dad and weighing in with our respective opinions about various nations overseas, we decided to pick one nation on this planet and cook up a dish or two from that nation's cuisine; that would be our Christmas dinner. And lo, we decided on France.

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2012: France — Ratatouille
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(Okay, so we did have some honey baked ham along with it. Old habits die hard, I reckon. But that was the last year that we had honey baked ham for Christmas, mark my words!)

Then another year passed; out went 2012 and in came 2013. This time, we decided on a novel way of picking a nation at random: I popped my little globe off its axis, I spun it around on the floor and then, without looking, I stopped the globe and poked a random spot on the globe with my finger; whichever nation I was poking would supply our next Christmas dinner. We ignored the obvious problem with the relative sizes of Earth's 200-odd nations; with the globe-spinning method, you might pick Russia, China, Canada and the USA dozens of times, while tiny nations like the Pitcairn Islands, Bermuda and Liechtenstein would never get picked. (Not that Liechtenstein is worth noticing anyway, mind you.... Tongue )

Heedlessly, we continued. The first three spins had to be discarded; as I recall, those spins resulted in the Pacific Ocean, Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf and the Pacific Ocean again. Then with the fourth spin, my finger ended up in South-Central Russia, just a hair north of Kazakhstan. So Russia it was!

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2013: Russia — Borscht
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Borscht is a pretty versatile beet stew; as long as you have the beets and the beef broth, you can ad hoc the rest. The sour cream topping is optional but strongly recommended. But we opted out of the traditional pairing of borscht and vodka, seeing as all three of us have tried vodka and none of us liked it. So we harkened back to France with a delightful semi-sweet cabernet instead.

But though we thought very highly of the borscht (to the point that we couldn't decide whether it was better than the previous year's ratatouille), we were all too aware of Russia's resounding victory over my little spinning globe. So we needed a truly randomized nation picker, one which treated all nations equally with no regard to land size, population or other such concerns. By the time we found what we needed — this Random Country site — we had already come up with a plan on what to do if we actually ended up picking our own nation, the United States; we would simply cook cuisine from a part of the nation from which we rarely if ever ate, such as homemade Manhattan Clam Chowder or Creole Alligator Etouffeé.

But we didn't have to worry about that for the Christmas of 2014, because Random Country picked Poland.

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2014: Poland — Pierogi
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(No photos of the pierogi feast just yet, sorry.)

Pierogi is another highly versatile dish; it's basically Old Poland's predecessor to the burrito or the Hot Pocket. You just knead the dough, knead in some salt and maybe a few choice herbs or spices, then load it up with whatever you want...beef, chicken, veggies, catfish, you name it. Mix in some chopped green onions and shredded cabbage, then you fold the dough together left, right and up, and voila! You have a pierog. Then you just drop the pierog into a pot of boiling water and let it boil for about ten minutes, then strain it out.

Variety is the spice of life, so we made some of them vegetable pierogi (heavy on the cabbage and carrots), some of them pork pierogi, some of them chicken pierogi and maybe three shrimp pierogi. I really need to dig up those photos; the pierogi weren't as good as the borscht or the ratatouille, but we agreed that they were still pretty sporkin' good.

So the next year came, and we learned that Random Country is not infallible after it picked Bahrain. Bahrain is basically a little sandlot floating off the coast of their big brother, Saudi Arabia. As such, Bahrain doesn't produce anything for food, they don't produce anything for industry...there aren't even enough trees in Bahrain to cut down and build into fishing boats, so they can't even go trawling for fish! And if there's one thing that Bahrain does have, it's beachfront property and ocean. So Bahrain's income stems chiefly from wealthy Saudi Arabians on vacation, because that's all Bahrain is good for: it's just one big beachside resort. Naturally, as a result, Bahrain doesn't have their own cuisine; they just eat whatever the Arabs sell to them.

[Skirting around the character limit right quick....]
Pizzatron-9000, proud to be a member of LeeFish since Aug 2018.
(This post was last modified: 12-12-2018 01:41 AM by Pizzatron-9000.)

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#2 12-12-2018 
But rather than go one step further and pick Saudi Arabia, we decided to give Random Country another chance. This time, it didn't fail us. It chose Jamaica.

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2015: Jamaica — Barbecued Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork
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(Oh, dear. I seem to have lost the photos of our Jamaican Christmas feast, too.)

Rather than go the cheap route and buy some bottles of jerk rub at the supermarket, we went for homemade authenticity. And that meant buying all of the ingredients for the jerk rub — salt, sugar, cinnamon, minced garlic, thyme and everything else — then mixing it all together in a large sauce pan. After that, we washed our hands, laid out the raw cuts of chicken and pork on a cutting board, poured some of the jerk rub onto each cut of meat, then dipped our fingers in and massaged the sauce into the meat. Once we were satisfied that the top side of each cut was well-infused with the jerk rub (almost like a quick marinade, in fact), we flipped the cuts over and repeated the process with the other side. Then it was time to fire up the barbecue grill outside and give the spicy meats a thorough cooking.

Jamaican jerk barbecue is very spicy in a sweet and salty way, and it was quite delicious. We kept a sauce brush at hand to keep reapplying the jerk rub, but it wasn't all that necessary; the rub clung to the meat quite well, and we served the meat while it was juicy and savory. We Texans are good at grilling meat, you know. Wink

Then came 2016, and Random Country threw us a curveball, courtesy of the South Pacific:

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2016: Tonga — Coconut-Boiled Shrimp and Spit-Roasted Ham
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The island nations of Oceania are similar, yet diverse. And by sheer happy coincidence, Disney's Moana had hit the cinemas earlier that year, so Pacific Islanders were all the rage. (Yes, Moana is mostly influenced by the old Maori and Hawaiian tribal cultures, but those really aren't far removed from the Tongans, the Samoans, the Tahitians (including the ones displaced to the Pitcairn Islands by the HMS Bounty's infamous mutineers) and...whatever you call the tribe native to the Solomon Islands. I should probably look them up, huh?

But three foodstuffs which Tonga has in abundance are coconuts, shrimp and wild pork; naturally, these foodstuffs are staples in the bulk of Tongan cuisine. We couldn't find enough coconuts to crack and pour our own coconut milk, so we had to settle for buying a few bottles of the stuff at one of our local supermarkets. Raw shrimp was available, as always. But for the authentic tribal Tongan experience, we would have to kill a wild pig and cook it in one of two ways:

1) Spit-roasting (where you thrust a sharp pole through the entire pig, set the spit up on two crooks and periodically turn the pig over a good-sized fire).
2) Pit-roasting (where you dig something like a grave in the sand, lay a bunch of wood across the bottom of the hole, burn the wood down to embers, lay some banana leaves or leather across the embers, lay the pig on the leaves/leather, dump another layer of leaves/leather on top of the pig, then fill the pit with all the sand that you scooped out in the first place, let it sit for like that for eight hours, then dig the pig up, cut it up and serve).

Pit-roasting was far, far too much work, and we didn't have any wild pigs roaming around the lake that week. So we settled for buying a fresh, raw ham from the grocery store, jamming a metal spit through it and spit-roasting that over the barbecue grill instead. Good enough, right?

So Dad was spit-roasting the ham over a wood fire in the grill while Mom and I were inside boiling raw shrimp in an iron pot full of coconut milk. Long story short: The whole meal was sweet, savory and filling...and it was a surprisingly Texan-like meal, at least with the ham. Thanks, Tongans! Smile

We didn't even bother picking a nation at random for 2017's Christmas. It had been ten years since I returned to Texas and started my work at bringing our family back together again. Ten years! There was only one meal that we could serve up for that Christmas, without question:

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2017: Ireland — Irish Stew again!
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(In hindsight, the cell phone didn't do a very good job. I'm going back to taking photos with my digital Kodak this year.)

Yes, the dish which had crossed the Atlantic Ocean on dreams of freedom and prosperity came to grace our table once again! Dad and I agreed that it was just as good as we had remembered it from a decade past. Mom hadn't yet made her return to Texas that year, but she agreed that she had missed out on something scrumptious (and that she was glad to sample my Irish Stew at long last).

So now, another Christmas is nigh. Dad went the not-so-random route and picked Portugal for some reason, while I myself fired up Random Country once again, and thence came my "lovely coincidence". Neither Dad nor I yielded, so without telling Mom who voted for which nation, we asked her which of the two cuisines she would prefer to try.

I won the tie-breaker. Big Grin

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2018: The Netherlands — ???
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(Don't worry, Dad; I've already chalked us in for 2019, too!)

Pizzatron's Christmas Dinner of 2019: Portugal — ???
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So naturally, I thought to come back to this very Dutch site and all of its Dutch people and mooch some suggestions. The Netherlands has a strong beer scene, but beer alone does not a Christmas dinner make. Dutch pastries and deserts are also widely renowned, but I should probably focus on deciding on a good main course, perhaps a second course as well. The Netherlands is (are?) also abundant in fish and other seafood by right of proximity, considering that you have the entire North Sea trying to push down that blasted huge sea wall and flood the whole place. (How much of the Netherlands lies below Sea Level again? Have y'all considered asking Russia and Ukraine if you can buy some of their fill dirt? They have plenty! Wink )

So I guess the heart of the matter is thus: What does Leefish eat when she's settling down for a fancy dinner with her family? Big Grin

But I'm open to anything that's Dutch and edible, really. Thoughts?
(This post was last modified: 12-12-2018 02:02 AM by Pizzatron-9000.)

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#3 12-12-2018 
*cloggie shuffles in
So yeah, here's the deal. You've stumbled upon the best kept secret of the Dutchies: we don't do fancy dinners. You're lucky if what we serve you is edible.

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#4 12-12-2018 
(12-12-2018 06:58 PM)Klaartje Wrote:  *cloggie shuffles in
So yeah, here's the deal. You've stumbled upon the best kept secret of the Dutchies: we don't do fancy dinners. You're lucky if what we serve you is edible.
Cloggies, huh? You are totally playing up to the "wooden shoes and windmills" stereotype about the Dutch! We all know that the Dutch wear slacks and sneakers just like everyone else in the First World nations does. Wink

Anyway, I'm glad that my Christmas cuisine thread brought you back to Leefish! As for fancy food, I don't know about that; this recipe for kersenvlaai looks pretty nice (even if it's ultimately nothing more than a cherry pie, but like I said, the Dutch play a pretty good game when it comes to making desserts).

Dutch cuisine does seem to steer towards simple, rustic fare, however. This boerenkool seems to be pretty similar to the sausage, potatoes and greens that you can find at one of our Bob Evans restaurants. Pannenkoeken are Dutch pancakes, snert is just a really thick split pea soup, erwtensoep seems to be pea soup with shredded cheese, appeltaart is apple pie, oliebollen are large doughnut holes...oh, wait. This kibbeling is pretty much battered fish nuggets with a really tasty dipping sauce, isn't it? I wonder if I should try my hand at cooking kibbeling this year. I can even get my hands on some good cod filets, so I won't have to substitute salmon or whitefish! Not that I couldn't make salmon kibbeling work, mind you, but salmon doesn't really seem to appear in European cuisine very often. I think that salmon's more of a North American food. I'll stick to the cod.

See? I knew that you Dutch folks play a pretty good game when it comes to seafood too! I don't think I'll be eating raw herring with you any time soon, but I could definitely go for some of this kibbeling. And better yet, even those of us who speak with English phoenetics can easily pronounce it! Bonus! Big Grin

Okay, so kibbeling (or is it kabeljauwwang?) is looking pretty likely to end up in my little Texan kitchen this year. What else do y'all have? Smile

(Also, why do some people call the Netherlands "Holland" when the actual Holland (all one or two of them) is just a piece of the Netherlands? I have yet to understand that. Undecided )
(This post was last modified: 12-12-2018 09:16 PM by Pizzatron-9000.)

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#5 12-12-2018 
Good luck with that...
I was gonna suggest watching Babette's Feast for inspiration (but, it's a "French" feast she cooks for them...)
We always do beef for Christmas. (Thanksgiving is turkey, of course; and lamb or ham is for Easter)
I've done a pretty good Wellington before... and standing ribs, etc. Now though, we settle for nice thick ribeyes on the grill. It's simple, tasty, and hubster does the cookin' Celebrate

Don't forget the important thing about Christmas and enjoy your family! Fishmas

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#6 12-12-2018 
(12-12-2018 08:46 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  Good luck with that...
Yar. Big Grin

(12-12-2018 08:46 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  I was gonna suggest watching Babette's Feast for inspiration (but, it's a "French" feast she cooks for them...)
I've never heard of Babette's Feast, to be honest. But from your meaning, I assume that she's cooking French food for a Dutch family. How well does that go? Smile

(12-12-2018 08:46 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  We always do beef for Christmas. (Thanksgiving is turkey, of course; and lamb or ham is for Easter)
It's odd, but we actually have a very hard time getting our hands on lamb or mutton here in Texas. On the other hand, beef and pork might as well be growing on our trees. We have so much of it, and our meat markets sell beef and pork dirt cheap! Every time my parents and I visit our kinfolk in Saint Louis, we pack a cooler full of ice and toss a few of our steaks in, just to treat them since they don't get to eat steak very often.

(12-12-2018 08:46 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  I've done a pretty good Wellington before... and standing ribs, etc. Now though, we settle for nice thick ribeyes on the grill. It's simple, tasty, and hubster does the cookin' Celebrate
Would y'all care to swap recipes sometime? Big Grin

(12-12-2018 08:46 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  Don't forget the important thing about Christmas and enjoy your family! Fishmas
Always do! Getting together with the folks and jockeying around in the kitchen to cook up these exquisite feasts is pretty much the whole point. "You did a great job with boiling the shrimp!" "Thanks, Dad! You did a great job with that spit roast!" Teamwork makes the dream work, right? Wink

And if we make enough Christmas food (and we usually do), we'll even bring some over to Uncle Jerry and Aunt Alma's house. We have yet to disappoint them. Big Grin
(This post was last modified: 12-12-2018 09:19 PM by Pizzatron-9000.)

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#7 12-12-2018 
Babette's Feast - if you can find it nowadays - is a truly beautiful film! It is slow, poignant, period dress, about life, and one of my all-time favorites.
ETA: Oh! And it's Danish... not quite Netherlands, but close!

I wish I could find that Wellington recipe - it was perfect! I tried it about 4 years in a row (and got sooooo frustrated with it) then I found a recipe on a blog that explained it so well that I had to try it one last time - and it worked! I think the big secret was to bring everything to room temp before starting, but I don't really remember... and of course I didn't hit 'print'. Duh Slap

I used to do a lot of International cooking - lots of Thai, Indian, Moroccan, and Japanese... and also Scottish, Irish, and Mediterranean. Now my kitchen is too small. If I were a sim, I'd be waving my fist like mad! I only have one small counter to prep with and two working burners on the stove. *sigh* In four years we'll be able to remodel. I hope! Meanwhile I gaze longingly at my shelf of cookbooks; and break out the frozen chicken patties. Another reason hubby uses the grill for Christmas dinner. Fishmas

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#8 12-12-2018 
(12-12-2018 09:42 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  Babette's Feast - if you can find it nowadays - is a truly beautiful film! It is slow, poignant, period dress, about life, and one of my all-time favorites.
ETA: Oh! And it's Danish... not quite Netherlands, but close!
Google says that it's just an eight-hour drive through Germany to get from the Netherlands to Denmark. Heck, it takes me ten hours to drive from East Texas to Saint Louis, Missouri! So yeah, Denmark and the Netherlands are pretty close. We probably shouldn't go ruffling any Dutch feathers by mistaking Danes for Dutchies, though. It would be like mistaking a British Columbian for a Californian. You simply don't do that. Wink

Also, here! Have a trailer! Smile




I still don't understand the significance of that large tortoise that they're carrying in the wagon near the beginning of the trailer. I reckon I'd have to watch the whole movie to figure it out.

And did that colonel just mistake an 1845 Clos de Vougeot for an 1860 Veuve Clicquot? The blasphemer! Rofl

*actually isn't even remotely close to being that learned of a sommelier or other vintner savant*

(12-12-2018 09:42 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  I wish I could find that Wellington recipe - it was perfect! I tried it about 4 years in a row (and got sooooo frustrated with it) then I found a recipe on a blog that explained it so well that I had to try it one last time - and it worked! I think the big secret was to bring everything to room temp before starting, but I don't really remember... and of course I didn't hit 'print'. Duh Slap
Oh, don't take it too hard! We live in the age of the internet, you know. Knowledge is just a few keystrokes away! Idea

Have you tried Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington recipe yet? Using Saran Wrap to get the ham to conform to the shape of the beef seems like a novel approach, doesn't it? Smile

(12-12-2018 09:42 PM)CatherineTCJD Wrote:  I used to do a lot of International cooking - lots of Thai, Indian, Moroccan, and Japanese... and also Scottish, Irish, and Mediterranean. Now my kitchen is too small. If I were a sim, I'd be waving my fist like mad! I only have one small counter to prep with and two working burners on the stove. *sigh* In four years we'll be able to remodel. I hope! Meanwhile I gaze longingly at my shelf of cookbooks; and break out the frozen chicken patties. Another reason hubby uses the grill for Christmas dinner. Fishmas
Yeah, we can't always have the perfect kitchen that we want, let alone the rest of the house. Sad

So your kitchen is now too small. Is that because you moved to a different house, or is your kitchen simply full of clutter that you haven't hauled up to the attic yet? Wink
(This post was last modified: 12-12-2018 11:18 PM by Pizzatron-9000.)

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#9 12-12-2018 
We moved. Been here a year now. Can't refinance until 5 yrs are up. I can't wait!!!
This is an old 1945 bungalow style house - less than 2000 sq ft. Most of our stuff is still packed - there's no room for anything! I mean it's either the dining table OR the Christmas Tree. *sigh* But, it was what we could afford, it's got a great lake view, and it's OURS!
Ham? In a Beef Wellington? [Image: images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSEVR_3625pFAD31H9gPZU...UxdKTbiSCP]
Should be pate and 'shrooms... right?

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#10 12-12-2018 
Check the recipe again; the mushrooms are in there. Heck, wrapping the beef in duxelle/mushroom paste/[something of the sort] is absolutely essential to Beef Wellington, no question. Gordon Ramsay just so happens to wrap his duxelle in a few ham slices, that's all. Like I said, it's pretty novel. He's a master chef. I dare not question his wisdom. Wink

But less than 2,000 square feet? You might as well be living in an apartment! Those are going to be the longest five years in the world, I'll bet.

I'm wondering if those Dutch fish nuggets will be enough to constitute a family meal. I mean, we turned pierogi into a full meal, and a pierog is little more than Polish finger food. But we did that by making a lot of pierogi and by varying the ingredients for every few pierogi. Maybe it would be a good idea to follow the kibbeling with a Dutch dessert, like those oliebollen (albeit lighter on the cane sugar and heavier on the cinnamon, maybe). Or should I add a second course instead of a dessert?
(This post was last modified: 13-12-2018 12:06 AM by Pizzatron-9000.)

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