Every year since I can remember my family has done the real Christmas celebrating on Christmas Eve. We go to a Christmas Eve candlelight service, eat dinner, and then open all of our gifts. Not one, all of them. Yes, you heard that right, we open all of our gifts on Christmas eve. Okay, I suppose we save our stocking gifts for the Christmas morning, but all of the big-ticket good stuff is received on Christmas Eve. Patience is not a family virtue.
This year for dinner I volunteered to make the same ham I feasted on at Thanksmas. The rest of the meal was left to my mother. I’ll take the rest of this post to share our meal and the semi-homemade cooking style she exudes.
This is my ham. I used the same Bon Appetit recipe from Thanksmas as the base, but had to change the oven times because of the Christmas Eve candlelight service we went to. So, I roasted the ham at 300 degrees with three cups of water for just over an hour before slathering it with a paste made of two cups brown sugar mixed with a half cup of Dijon mustard. After coating it with the brown sugar Dijon paste I raised the oven temperature to 350 degrees and went to go sing carols and sit patiently through an increasingly convincing Christmas story sermon. I took the ham out of the oven right when we got home and let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving it. The recipe time frame worked best (2 hours at 300 degrees, slather, 1 hour at 350) but the ham was still amazing, and actually cooked faster. Surprising how cooking something longer at a higher heat does that….
A Christmas classic in our house is my mom’s cheesy potatoes. I believe they are my sisters favorite dish and they are so super easy to make. All you need is one bag of cubed frozen hash browns, one tub sour cream, one can of cream of chicken soup, and shredded cheese. Et voila! Cheesy potatoes. My mom put them in the oven covered at 350 degrees and removed them after 20 minutes. Since we had anticipated the ham to take much longer, and it didn’t, she finished the potatoes more quickly by zapping them in the microwave for 10 minutes. It’s funny how my generation frowns upon using the microwave, but let me tell you, zapping frozen hash browns covered in creamy soup doesn’t hurt a thing.
Next my mom put together her and my dads version of a caprese salad. After I drug my parents to Luce, which made the Bon Appetit Top 10 New Restaurants of 2012 list, my father decided he like caprese salads. You see my parents aren’t exactly “foodies”, so I am very proud of the fact that I inspired their American style caprese salad making spree. No basil, balsamic, or pepper needed! Just slice tomatoes and mozzarella(or buy the pre-sliced mozzarella from Costco like my parents and cut prep time down even more!) and pour some Italian dressing over it. However appalled I may have been when I saw this happening, I admit now that I am so down on the bottled dressing on a caprese salad. I’m also down for balsamic and olive oil over hand-picked heirloom tomatoes atop fresh mozzarella in the middle of summer while basking in the hot Italian sun, but it’s okay to live in the real world sometimes.
And then there was this. The green pistachio salad. I would love to say the green marshmallow and jello salad finally enticed me after years of being ignored, but alas, I am still not a fan of anything that may have been conceived by a fifties housewife. We discussed the charm of being able to use different flavored jellos to tint the dish to the current season, but still I couldn’t find the charm. We also discussed the obsession my mother’s generation has with jello. Neither topic changed my mind on the dish. My dad is happy as a clam that we don’t like it, because that just leaves more for him!
After eating the wonderful bounty of dinner we gathered and celebrated the real meaning of Christmas: presents. Okay Okay, it’s not presents. It’s food.
I hope you all got to eat more than you needed, open more presents than you wanted, and saw more family than you should have and are having a very Merry Christmas!