Let me apologize for going all Pulp Fiction on you with Dinner is Served! and not putting my dinners in chronological order, and writing about New Year’s before Christmas. But this is how it happened. So deal with it.
Anyway, I’m going to a little bit back in time to Christmas Eve 2011. Christmas Eve is the BIG holiday in my house. How big? This year we packed 48 people into my parents’ moderately-sized urban townhouse. It was a lot of people. Some of my cousins had be sitting under furniture for all of them to fit.
Since it’s the biggest of all the holidays I decided to contribute not one but TWO retro delights for the buffet table: Mustard Ring and Holiday Glögg.
So I made my mustard ring the day before. I made it as directed with 2 big exceptions:The centerpiece of our Christmas Eve buffet is a baked ham from Herb Brittner’s Smokehouse and Radiator Shop in lovely Zelienople PA. Since this night of nights is a ham-centric affair I chose #106 Mustard Ring. I had to. It says right there on the card “it goes well with ham and corned beef.”
1. my ring wasn’t a ring it was a star. I do own a couple ring molds but all of them were too small to hold all that mustard-flavored Jell-O so I opted for a star. That says holiday, right?
2. Since I didn’t make a ring I omitted the vinegar/zucchini/cauliflower mix. Plus, zucchini is so not wintry.
Anyway, I followed #106 and was good up until the step where the sour cream and green onions were folded into the gelatin mixture. I seriously questioned what I had done. The gelatin mixture wasn’t mixing well with the cream. It looked as though there was some curdling going on. But into the mold it went and then into the fridge. I crossed my fingers and hoped that chilling it overnight would somehow fix it.
But I was still skeptical.
But lo and behold, when it came time to get my golden gelatin out of the mold, it came out perfectly. Praise thee, Jell-O gods!!!
How did it taste? I thought it went great with the ham. The mustard star was sweet and tangy and the green onion gave it a touch of freshness. It actually tasted A LOT like Herlocher’s Dipping Mustard. But the star is much better looking than a blob out of a jar, right? Especially with my fancy-schmancy scallion garnishes.
I think that a lot of my relatives were put off by a opaque, yellow Jell-O mold, but they missed out. It was good. Well played, Dinner is Served!
Now for the punch! I totally chose the Glögg because of the umlaut. I’m a sucker for a good umlaut. In addition, the Glögg was accompanied by a traditional Swedish Smorgasborg, which is just a hop and skip from a ham buffet, if you ask me.
My interest was peaked by the inclusion of Aquavit–a liquor I had not yet sampled. it’s Swedish and is supposed to taste like caraway or dill. Intriguing, no? So I went to the big wine & liquors store to purchase my wine, brandy and Aquavit. I went to this liquor store in particular because I was sure they’d carry an exotic elixir such as Aquavit.
No Aquavit. Story of my life. So I had to make a substitute. I asked one of the managers what a suitable sub would be. He said Sambuca.
But I bought it anyway. I wanted my Glögg to be as authentic as possible–well at least as authentic as it could be without the ingredient that makes it Swedish.
I had the booze but I still needed to buy the other Glögg ingredients.
Picture it I’m in the Whole Foods (which was stuffed to the gills by middle-aged women with too much expendable income who have no problem spending $3 on a single organic orange): confused, lost, sweating, skittering through the aisles frantically looking for frickin’ white raisins and cardamon seeds. I literally started calling out, “White raisins? White raisins? Anyone know where there’s white raisins?” just so I could find what I was looking for. A Whole Foods team member threw a bag of raisins across the aisle to me so I wouldn’t have to push past another LL Bean-clad east-ender.
I am glad to say that I made it out of the Whole Foods without bodily injury and with all of my purchases.
I prepared the Holiday Glögg earlier in the day, well before our guests arrived. I made it as directed–I simmered the wine with the oranges and spices, and added the Sambuca and the Brandy. Since I wasn’t using the Aquavit and I’m not a fan of Sambuca, I only used a quarter cup of it. I then transferred the brew–oranges, cardamon seeds, cinnamon sticks and all–into a Crock Pot.
I totally forgot to take a picture of the absolutely darling sign I had next to the crock pot. I wrote “Holiday Glögg” on one of those dry-erase cheese signs and stuck it in an orange. Very Martha Stewart.
So the photos suck. But the Glögg did not. It was good and it just smelled Christmasy. I was afraid it would be crazy-sweet because of the sugar and the raisins but the dry red wine tempered the sweetness and I made a good call on only using 1/4 cup of the Sambuca. The anise flavor was present but it was by no means the dominating flavor, which it would’ve been had I used a whole cup. Barf.
At the end of night, once everyone had left and the house was (relatively) tidy, my favorite Christmas tradition commenced: watching crappy movies with my brother, Nic (yes, Nic of Nic’s British Sausage Rolls). We eat leftover fried chicken, and get tipsy. It seriously is the best holiday tradition ever.
We typically screen an action movie. Last year was The Expendables and half of Predators. We changed it up a bit and this year’s selection was a little-known gem called Tuff Turf.
So it’s this movie from 1985 and James Spader stars as a rich kid who finds himself on the wrong side of the tracks when his dad loses all his money. So he has to go to a new school and he has this bicycle and the bike means a lot to him–oh crap, why describe it when you can just watch the trailer?
That trailer is epic.
Yes, that’s James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. And yes that is indeed pillowcase Kim Richards from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. This movie was everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s dated (take a long, hard look at Kim’s hair and clothes), has fight scenes (tennis racquets!!!) and has musical numbers (multiple musical numbers. Spader sings a goddamned ballad!).
Tuff Turf sweats awesome.
So all in all Christmas Eve 2011 was one to remember. #106 was oddly edible and I watched a movie that featured dialogue as stellar as this:
Seriously, Screenwriter of Tuff Turf, you actually wrote that down. On paper. Shit, that probably made it through multiple drafts.
I applaud you, Screenwriter of Tuff Turf. You get a gold (gelatin) star.