I was going to share these recipes before Christmas, before the long family meals laden with roasts and topped off with heaps of cookies, when everyone would still be in the mood for thinking about food, let alone eating it. Yet my own pre-Christmas plans—recovering from back-to-back days of beer and chocolate tastings, last-minute aperetivos with new friends, and jetting off to Paris for a brief sojourn—thwarted my blogging intentions.
So now, I will try to force just a few more bites onto all of your holiday plates, before 2012 draws to a close.
A few weekends ago, my Master class threw a Christmas Bash at the University’s Gastronomic Society to celebrate the end of our first month of studies together and to kick off the holiday season. The Società Gastronomica is a student-led initiative, housed in an idyllic villa just on the outskirts of Bra. To me, it’s food’s answer to the Kelly Writers House (my “home” for the past five years) — it’s a meeting space, a salon, a restaurant, a laboratory. It has a professional kitchen and a community garden, and its event and running costs are supported by its members and participants.
For our Christmas Bash, we gathered in the courtyard of the Società, grooved to a live two-man classic rock band, and shared dishes, some representing our home countries, some just representing our zeal for good food. There was raclette cheese imported from Switzerland, served with pearl onions, cornichons, and steamed potatoes by our resident cheesemaker from Austria. The German-Italian and Singaporean teamed up to bring us organic Bratwurst-Semmel, licked by flames from the world’s smallest grill. I ate Japanese spare ribs slicked with a syrupy oyster-sauce tinged marinade and washed them down with a hot toddie crafted by our favorite girl from Edinburgh. There were gallons of clove-and-ginger-and-cinnamon-y mulled wine and splashes of coconut-and-rum Coquitos from Puerto Rico. And the desserts! Indian Ladoo cookies, scented with cardamom; donuts fried in maple syrup that had been smuggled from Quebec; nutella fudge; crunchy oatmeal Christmas cookies. It was all too much, and yet a perfect way for this hodgepodge group from 17 countries to share and celebrate.
Here are some of my classmates’ recipes from the Christmas Bash, in their own words.
Chili con Carne adapted from Gourmet by Charlotte, Maddie, and me (USA)
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 carrots, diced small
3 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon crumbled dry oregano
Dried red pepper flakes, to taste
1 bay leaf
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce or 2 cups fresh tomato sauce or tomato puree
1 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups or 1 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 green bell peppers, chopped
Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits, below
Sour cream and pickled jalapeños (optional, to finish)
In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat and cook the onions in it for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and carrots and cook for one minute more. Raise the heat to medium and add the beef, stirring and breaking up any lumps until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the tomato sauce, broth and vinegar and simmer the chili, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes. Add the kidney beans, bell peppers, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until the bell peppers are tender.
Kimchi-Jeon by Hyo Jeong (South Korea)
spicy cabbage kimchi,
accompaniment: Vinegar soy sauce: soy sauce, vinegar (or lemon juice), water, sesame
Remove inside stuffs from the cabbage kimchi, and cut into small pieces.
Peel and slice the onion.
Put wheat flour, rice powder, salt, egg, water in to a bowl, and then mix thoroughly.
Add the kimchi and onion into the bowl, and then mix softly.
Preheat the frying pan and oil. On medium heat, put a ladle of mixed dough on the pan.
On medium heat, panfry mixed dough. When bottom is well-done, turn over, and fry it both sides until it turns yellow.
Serve with vinegar soy sauce.
Bavarian Krautstreudel by Christian (Germany)
1 pack of strudel or filo sheets
2 tablespoons lard, substitute margarine
50 g bacon, streaky, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
1 dash of vinegar
1 kg of white cabbage, freshly chopped or sliced
salt and pepper
50 ml broth
1 tablespoon butter, melted,
250 g sour cream
Fresh marjoram, caraway
If you use frozen filo pastry, let it thaw slowly in the refrigerator – just not in the microwave!
Heat the lard, fry the bacon, then add the onion and sugar and brown slightly. Then add the cabbage to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and caraway, and if necessary, add some broth. Simmer approx. 20 minutes with moderate heat with covered lid to soften the cabbage. Then remove the lid and continue cooking. If you don’t have a big pan, use a baking sheet and put the cabbage in the oven at 150 C. It is done when the cabbage is slightly brown in color and has a distinct sweet and salty taste and the caraway is also present. (Don’t be afraid, it’s almost impossible to overcook a cabbage). Your filling should be moist but definitely not wet, for this would damage the filo sheets. Place the pastry on a damp cloth and brush with melted butter. Put the cabbage filling onto the pastry and, roll it with the help of the cloth. Fold in both sides, so that you have a “closed pillow.” Brush the dough again with melted butter, place on a baking tray with baking parchment and bake in oven at 180 ° for about 15 minutes, until the strudel is light brown on colour and crisp outside.
Serve while still warm with lightly whipped sour cream and marjoram.
Best corresponding drink would be a beer or a full bodied white.
Sweet and Salty Caramel Bark by Kate and Maria Estela (USA and Ecuador)
40 saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1.5 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans/walnuts, or crushed candy canes, or crushed toffee bits