Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Saturday December 25, 2010

Saturday Swirl:
Christmas Evening Toast - Pairings for your Christmas Feast!!

Christmas 2010

What is a traditional Christmas dinner? This is a loaded question! It depends completely on your personal history.

Christmas dinner for me consists of 2 separate meals. My name is Alexandra (Alex) Elman and I was born to a Brazilian mother and an American father. My father is Jewish so a “traditional Christmas dinner” is a moot discussion. My mother’s family is an all together different story….

My mother was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to an English father and an Italian/Portuguese mother, who were both British Colonists in British Guyana in the West Indies. My traditional Christmas dinner has a deliciously intricate history.

We start with “breakfast”. This would be at about 1PM in the afternoon after presents are opened. Everyone is given a “wishing pie”, this is a little pastry filled with minced meat, shaped into a star shape and sprinkled with green and red sugar. We have “carne vina d’aije”. This is a traditional Portuguese dish which consists of chunks of pork, veal and steak marinated in vinegar, anise and garlic for a number of days. The meats are then fried, and then bread is fried in the marinade, YUM! This is served with tiny pickled onions and slices of Edam cheese as well as homemade orange and pineapple marmalade. After this scrumptious feast, we all roll around and wait until dinner. I always go to the beach and swim as much as possible so I can have some space for the next chapter in my familial nostalgia.

Dinner is a traditional English Christmas dinner. We have roast turkey, baked ham with cloves, tiny roasted potatos, sautéed string beans, stuffing, some salad, cookies and various types of cakes. Our Christmas always closes with flambé plum pudding being passed over all of the heads of the invited guests who are to make their wishes for the new year à la St. Lucia! We are all convinced that my grandmother mishmashed all of her favorite things about Christmas together. Regardless, this is my traditional Christmas dinner!

Please remember that this all takes place in the Southern Hemisphere, it is about 100 degrees at midnight on December 25th! We all feast, drink, laugh and sweat together!

Now, you might ask, why is this blog called The Saturday Evening Toast? Well, I have worked in the wide world of wine for all of my adult life and was brought up tasting wines from all over the world. I am a wine importer and have a group of private label wines. Alex Elman Wine Treasures are a family of wines that I bring so all Americans can taste the best examples of the particular type of grape from the soil it grows in. Now that you know, a little, about me, I wanted to talk about Christmas dinner wines!

What wine to drink with your:
Roast beef
Pork roast

Well, let’s begin from the top. If you are serving a roast beef I would go with a juicy rich red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec are favorites for meats.

A pork roast sings with Pinot Noir, a dry Rose and even a bottle of aged Sauvignon Blanc.

Turkey , Goose or Duck…always Christmas favorites. These wonderfully rich fowls match swimmingly with a delicious dry Riesling, a crisp Chablis (Chardonnay, unoaked please!) and my personal favorite, *Torrontes.

Champagne or any sparkling wine will bring extra giggles to any meal, holidays or not.

Whenever possible, try and choose organically made wines, they will taste better, you will feel better, and the earth will be able to give better fruit for the next harvest!

Torrontes is originally a blending grape from the North West of Spain, Galicia. It was brought to Argentina by European settlers and the grape has done extremely well in the high, dry climate. This is a wine that has notes of tropical fruits, citrus and a hint of floral aromas with a base of good minerality to ground the wine.

Cheers to all and to all a very good night!

Friday December 24, 2010

Carole’s Concoctions:
Christmas Eve

Today's post will be short and sweet.

Merry Christmas to all!  May all your wishes come true.

Spend and give love - it's the best currency.  Toss it with some home cooked food, friends and family - and you are RICH!!

Love to ALL!!


Wednesday December 22, 2010

Heirloom Meals Radio:
Nat Bacon

How does a Jewish boy from Cambridge, MA end up as the head cheese maker at Shelburne Farms? Simple, he had a keen interest in environmental studies and took a job working on a farm when he was 18 years old.  A few more stints on some farms, a degree in dairy farming from the University of Vermont and a summer apprenticeship at Shelburne Farms and the rest is history.

Nat shares his memories of nudel kugel, brisket and other jewish fare but he was smart enough to get the secret ingredient (aka TIP) from his Nana on how to make his kugel taste likes hers - fresh squeezed orange juice!!

The interview is fun and informative.  Nat defines cheddar - it's a place, a cheese and a process.  The pasture to palate, sustainable farming that is practiced at Shelburne Farms is inspiring.  Nat also shared some of his favorite recipes from the Cooking with Shelburne Farms, Food and Stories from Vermont.  I can't wait to make the Shepherd Pie!!  Shelburne Farms is well worth the visit and check out the cheesemaking and Nat at work, cheddaring!!  Can't wait to go back in the spring!!  Thank you Nat!

Listen to the interview here.

Tuesday December 21, 2010

Tabletop Tuesdays:
Simple Says it All

For right now, my everyday before Christmas tabletop is a fantastic 12 Days of Christmas cookie jar from Williams-Sonoma, combined with a table runner that I made this summer with feathers and eggs.  The red color does the trick for me.  I add a hint of green with the candles in my antique English barley twist candlesticks.  Simple is good. And the hidden treat is better!! 

Happy Solstice!!

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