Get ready, ‘cause here they come—the holiday house guests, neighbors and friends. It can be hectic but it’s always made easier by preparing some of your old reliable recipes. In my home, the holidays call for a toast – my wine of choice is Prosecco for its low alcoholic content and affordable price. Bubbles reflect the energy and joy of a special day. It’s celebratory. This is a tradition my late husband started years ago. Thankfully, some traditions that are part of my family, like several wonderful dishes my late mother- in-law prepared…her stuffing for example, rarely change. Literally every dish she made was homemade from scratch and it was wonderful. After my husband died, I took some old traditions and combined with new ones. A recent one I plan to prepare this year is Tomato Soup en Croute that I ordered and rhapsodized over at Bistro Jeanty in Napa, CA. It’s their signature dish and a real treat!
So cook away. And happy holidays from my home to yours.
Corn Bread Stuffing
My mother-in-law’s recipe that I have embellished by adding pine nuts for crunch.
4 cups crumbled corn bread
2 tbsp. butter
2 strips bacon, chopped (optional) or a ½ cup of chorizo sausage
11/2 cups small yellow onion, peeled and chopped or 2 cups chopped scallions, or shallots
½ cup pine nuts
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 medium tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 tsp. dried savory
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread corn bread (either homemade or store bought) on a cookie sheet and bake until golden, 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer to a large bowl.
Place bacon or sausage in skillet and cook over medium heat. Drain. Melt butter in the same skillet over medium heat, add onions and celery, and cook until almost tender about 5 minutes. Then add pine nuts and cook stirring almost constantly until they begin to brown. About 3 minutes. Add to bread mixture.
Stir in apple, lightly toasted pine nuts, spices, fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper. Put stuffing in a 4-cup baking dish, cover and bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the cover at the end to slightly brown the top. Serve hot.
Leslie’s Lemon Bars
A former neighbor made these for me one holiday, and I begged her for the recipe. I do add a bit more lemon juice than she did to give it a tangier kick. When placed on a pretty plate and wrapped in plastic with a ribbon, it makes a great gift. It’s also a terrific light and non-chocolate dessert to serve to company.
1 cup butter (melted)
2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups sugar
1/4th cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
7 tablespoons of real lemon juice
Combine the butter, flour and powdered sugar. Put into a greased 8X12 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Beat the remaining ingredients. Pour onto top of the first baked mixture and bake again or 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and cut into squares. This combination of sweet and tangy will melt in your mouth.
Bistro Jeanty Tomato Soup en Croute
This soup is savory and creamy. It is also very filling but a fabulous starter to any meal. And the presentation is fantastic.
21/2 lbs tomatoes—ripe, cored and quartered
½ cup butter unsalted
½ lb. yellow onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves
1/4th cup tomato paste
1 each bay leaf
½ Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 cut water (use only if tomatoes are not ripe and juicy)
4 cups heavy cream
½ tablespoon butter
salt to taste
½ tsp. ground white pepper
1 lb. puff pastry—defrosted if frozen
1 ea. egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Melt the ½ cup of butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions color. Add the tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and water, if needed.
Simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are very soft.
Puree in a blender (working in batches) or use a handheld immersion blender; strain. Return the soup to the pot. Add the cream, salt, whole pepper and the remaining ½ tablespoon of butter to taste. Bring the soup back to a boil.
Let the soup cool for two hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Divide among six 8-ounce soup cups or bowls.
Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4th inch. Cut six rounds slighter larger than your cups or bowls. Paint the dough with the egg wash and turn the circles egg-wash side down over the tops of the cups, pulling lightly on the sides to make the dough tight like a drum.
Lightly paint the top of the dough rounds with egg wash without pushing the dough down. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not open the oven during the first few minutes of baking or the dough will collapse. Then dig in.