As the festivities approach, I am on the look out for new and fun touches to add to the Christmas feast. Most of you, I am sure, already have a traditional family Christmas menu that you have been making/eating for decades. Your grandmother's recipe for the most amazing stuffing ever, your sister-in-law's killer mash potatoes and your dad's special gravy. A menu you look forward to for a whole year.
My mother in law, for example makes a turkey that is to die for. It is stuffed with truffle and chestnuts and so much more. My DH dreams of it year round and as excited as he is to travel over to the Big Apple with me in a week, I am sure a teeny part of his heart will remain in the Alps, where his mamma will be stuffing her turkey on the 25th. I also think he has already asked her to freeze a few slices for him.
Another tradition in his family is handmade tortellini for Christmas Eve, a real delicacy to be eaten in a clear broth made with several varieties of meat and vegetables (so, to be precise, I should call them cappelletti).
My family, of proud Prussian origin on my mother's side, is more goose oriented. I will never forget the look on my future Italian step brothers' face in the late Seventies when my step father flew them to New York from Venice to "meet the family" and my mother walked out of the kitchen after hours of cooking and basting and set down a platter with a huge goose on it accompanied with red cabbage and apples and a bowl of hearty bread, onion, chestnut and liver stuffing. In my opinion, however, the best thing about a goose at Christmas is the schmaltz. My mother collects the fat and drippings from the roasted goose and after frying a little onion into it, she lets it set (crispy bits of onion and skin included). The best way to eat this is smeared on toasted peasant bread with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
So, my dear readers, who am I to interfere with tradition?
Yesterday, as I was looking for the umptieth recipe to get my pan seared duck breast as crispy as possible, I came across this little jewel. It is just the right hue for the Christmas table and it pretty much tastes good with anything: to accompany a cheese platter, as an appetizer with foie gras or with game or fowl. You could also just down it by the spoonful, like I was tempted to (but didn't because we had guests over).
Please forgive my pictures, I have been having problems with my flash (which is fundamental since I usually cook when dark).
Ingredients (this makes a little under a cup)
2 red onions
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup dry red wine
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the onions thinly and start caramelizing in a pot with a little olive oil and the sugar. This will take approximately a half hour, as the onions will first release their water and then their natural sugars. Your flame should be set at medium, but keep an eye on it to make sure they don't fry or burn. When they have caramelized add in the red wine and balsamic vinegar and let cook for another 15 minutes or until the liquid dries up. Adjust to taste with pepper and salt. Let cool.