Mixed marriages lead to mixed traditions. My family's Christmas Eve dinner was rushed: my mother was the choir director at church and had many obligations as a harpist the week before Christmas. As children, we looked forward to our special dinner which was usually eaten very early in the evening before the festivities began. Home made cardamom bread was accompanied by a bowl of rice... what could be simpler than that? A blanched almond was hidden in one of the bowls of rice. Whoever found the almond won the special prize of being able to pass out the gifts. We enjoyed holiday cookies after church as we opened our gifts and had wonderful family time. Nice memories...
The year I brought my (future) husband home for Christmas I was so excited to share our simple holiday traditions. He, however, was appalled. Christmas Eve dinner in his Italian household was a feast of many, many fish dishes. Poor Gerard looked at his bowl of rice and said, "Is this it???" Even finding the almond wouldn't comfort him. Needless to say, we now spend Christmas Eve with his family where there will be at least 20 different types of fish. I'll post some photos tomorrow of this amazing dinner.
Below are the recipes for my family's bread and rice, and my husband's favorite fish salad.
Finish Viipuri Twist
2 pkg yeast
5 1/2 cups flour
2 cups butter milk
4 tbs butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
*Mix yeast with half of flour and spices in a large mixing bowl
*Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt in the microwave until butter melts and milk is luke warm. Add to flour mixture and beat for three minutes.
*Beat in remaining flour and knead for 5-8 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes by machine.
*place in covered bowl and let rise until doubled. Punch down and divide into thirds, let rest for 10 minutes.
*Make a rope shape from dough, about 36" long, and form into a pretzel shape. Let rise until almost double, about 45 minutes.
*Bake at 350-375 for 20 minutes.
*Brush with a slightly beaten egg when removed from oven
Christmas Eve Rice
Make a pot of Jasmine rice following package directions. Spoon serving into a bowl and immediately put 1 tbs butter on top.
Add 1/2 cup warm milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
1 1/2 lb salted cod
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves sliced garlic
2 lemons, juice only
1 large bunch of chopped parsley
*2 days before dinner (!) cover the fish with water and refrigerate. Change the water frequently and rinse to rehydrate and remove salt.
*Boil the fish for ten minutes and drain (the first time I made this, my mother in law forgot to tell me to cook the fish - a real fiasco!)
*Flake the fish into a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Let sit for several hours before serving.
This is truly a "mixed marriage" dish because the salted cod served in Italy is all caught in the cold waters of Scandinavia...