Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dinner 2009

Oh how much I love to get Christmas dinner together!! I think Jenna likes it too because she does not have to do any planning, shopping, and cooking. I did not go as extravagant as I did in the past couple years (remember sea urchins?) especially because I did not spend the last two months in Italy where I would get few funny things to try on Christmas day. So, I think I did pretty good with what I could find locally, with the exception of one dish. I will let you guess which one. The menu consisted of four appetizers, two pasta dishes, turkey with roasted potatoes, tiramisu, and San Pellegrino water a go-go.
Here are the details. We ate for four straight hours. Oh how much I love Christmas dinner!! (Did I already say that???).

Like last year, I made a platter of Italian cold meats, which is pretty traditional in my home country. I cover a large tray and a bowl with aluminum foil and use it as my serving plate for the meats. I buy them at Harmon's as I am fairly pleased with the quality, texture and flavors of their Boar's Head Italian selection. This year we had Parma Prosciutto, Italian dry salami, Genoa Salami, Pancetta (Italian cured bacon), and Mortadella with pistachio nuts.

Next, another classic from my Christmas at home as a young boy: Shrimp in cocktail sauce. I believe I posted this recipe before, but here it is again just in case. I get a bag of frozen cooked tail-off shrimps at Costco (2 lbs) and thaw them under lukewarm water. In a bowl I mixe 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1/2 cup of mayo, 1 pint of heavy whipping cream, and two tsp of Paprika. Then I add the shrimp and mix them with the sauce. They tasted like candy!

Here is something new that I did not try for Christmas before: mussels au gratin. I buy the mussels at Walmart as they have a 2 lbs bag of froze, cleaned, cooked mussels ready to eat. And the price is excellent (less than $4). I place the sealed plastic bags under hot water and let the mussels thaw. I open the bags, discard the liquid, and remove the half shell that is empty. In a bow I mixed two cups of bread crumbs, minced garlic, parsley and olive oil as to make a nice moist mixture (garlic and parsley may vary depending on taste). I fill each half shell with some of the mix and the press with the palm of my hand to make sure it is nice and compact. I place the mussels on a cookie sheet and then in the oven at 350 for 1/2 hour. They taste better if they are still warm.

Here is the table before we sat and started eating. The appetizers are all there. From the top, the Italian cold meat platter (with a rose butter on the top...), a nice chunk of Parmesan cheese some friends from Italy brought me as a gift a couple of months ago, sliced artisan bread from Costco (I love it! But Jenna can make some pretty good bread too) in a banana leaves basket we got in Hawaii last October, the shrimp in cocktail sauce, and the mussels au gratin. Buon Appetito!

The two pasta dishes were quite simple, but very very tasty. I love the pasta from Costco, both the fresh and the dry one. For this year dinner we got some of their large ravioli filled with squash. I served them with a light butter and sage sauce. They also taste like candy. We could not have enough of them. For the second pasta dish I did something a little extraordinary (that was the surprise for this year... surprise that usually I am the only one to appreciate!!). I used the dry egg noodles from Costco. It was the first time I tried them and they also tasted very good. For the sauce I sauted two black truffles finely grated that I brought with me from Tuscany last June. I have frozen them and waiting for a special occasion to sacrifice these two beauties (see picture). Jenna saw them on the counter and nearly fainted for the look and the smell... :) I simply adore them. Truly one of my favorite food ever. I added a cup and a 1/2 of heavy whipping cream and let them cook together on medium heat for few minutes. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!!

The meat dish was turkey with a side of roasted potatoes. Both recipes come from my grandma Perego. In fact, I knew my parents ate the same dish this year as grandma's only Christmas job is to bring the sacrificial turkey to the table. I bought a small young turkey at Costco and then using a large butcher knife, I cut it in pieces about the size of my palm, plus the two legs and two wings (I then used the body with the little meat left attached to it to make turkey stock). I place everything in a large pot with: dry sage, dry rosemary, dry juniper berries, garlic, dry bay leaves, and a couple of bouillon cubes. I add two cups of white wine and some water and let it cook slowly, moving the pieces around from time to time, until it is mostly cooked and the spices have done their job. At this point I move everything in a roast pan with lid and place in the oven at 300 for a couple of hours, checking on it from time to time and making sure the pieces are moist. The meat just fall off the bones and it melts in your mouth!! The roasted potatoes are very easy and tasty. I used 5 lbs of peeled potatoes cut in pieces and place in a large oven open pan. I sprinkle them with dry rosemary, two-three crumbled bouillon cubes, extra virgin olive oil and some coarse salt. I baked them at 380 for 1-2 hours, until soft, moving them around to make sure the top one would not get too dry (no photo available).

The real Italin tiramisu recipe asks for fresh mascarpone cheese, which is hard to find and quite expensive here in Utah. So, I came up with a less expensive alternative using ingredients that could be found locally. My wife had both and she thinks they are both very good. In a large mixing bowl, mix six large and very fresh egg yokes with 1/2 cup of sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Add a box of American Neufchatel Cheese, which is similar to cream cheese, but with a much lighter flavor (and 1/3 of the fat). Next, add two containers of creamy cool whip and mix until the cream is smooth and velvety. In a Pyrex pan, make a layer of lady fingers (Savoiardi, which you can buy in many stores, particularly Italian grocery stores such as Caputo and Granato in the Salt Lake Valley). I soak them (with the help of a spoon) with an unsweetened roasted barley drink as a substitute for coffee. Postum or Pero could do it too (the latter is better). I then cover this first layer of cookies with half of the cream and repeat the operation for a second layer. I cover the whole thing with surround wrap and place it in the fridge until ready to serve. When ready, I cut a small portion on a dessert plate and sprinkle it with unsweetened cocoa powder.

I can't wait for next Christmas dinner already!! :)


  1. Ugo. . .your recipe blog is AMAZING! I've already added it to my Favorites folder so I can check it regularly. I've added so many recipes to my own family blog that I've thought of starting up my own blog devoted only to food and recipes. . .but it wouldn't be anything as incredible as yours! Well done; I'm looking forward to trying many of these Italian masterpieces! Thanks!

  2. Okay, when you made this (about 12 years ago) for a date, you told me it took hours and hours and hours. This doesn't sound like it would take that long! Although, I'll be on the lookout for some barley drink here in the middle of Ohio! Sounds fabulous!