BY LOIS DESOCIO
It’s the week before Christmas, which means I’ve been doing some heavy listing. Not the kind that Santa checks twice – I save gift-buying for Christmas Eve. I’m talking supermarket list. For over 30 years, I’ve hosted Christmas dinner for family and friends (party girl!), so my first holiday priority is getting that dinner menu front and center, and ready for launch.
If you’re familiar with my Thanksgiving adventure, you’ve read that my system is to pick a page, or a group of pages in the newspaper, or a foodie magazine, and make everything on those pages, no matter how outlandish the combination. And since I’m deadline-driven by nature, for Christmas, I like to add to the chaos. I seek out the most complicated and out-of-bounds menu possible, and make lists, shop, and cook for a week. My deadline is the night-before-Christmas-Eve day. Because Christmas Eve is when I hit the mall. (Attention shoppers! This is way better, bargain wise, than Black Friday.) I have all my gifts in a mind-list, and am forced to make decisions on what to buy for everyone on my list, because I’m shopping on Christmas Eve.
And also this year, to mirror how unsettling this Christmas will be (for the first time, my youngest son, who is overseas, won’t be here, and relatives that were staples in my Christmas kitchen for decades have died, or moved on), I’ve decided, for old times’ sake, to randomly (with my eyes closed) pick recipes from the past. I turned and shook my recipe ring binder, filled with everything I’ve ever made or saved, upside down (like my Christmas!), spilled a pile on the counter, and made a meal from the spill. I picked appetizers (Maple/Pepper Salmon Bites, Apricot/Cherry Salsa with Taco Chips, Butterscotch/Whiskey Eggnog), a soup (Cream of Garlic), a salad (Prociutto/Fig/Walnut with Greens), and Timpano (also served upside down).
“Timpano!,” you may ask. “What’s that?” That’s what every one of my dinner guests asked in October, when I attempted it for the first time, and killed it – in a bad way, as in ruined. I do believe, if done right, though, that it must be the perfect meal. So it’s the headliner this Christmas.