I come from a family of seven children who always followed traditional Christmas customs. My mom got up at the crack of dawn to put in a huge turkey to roast, then got to work baking several pies – not for her pies that were baked the day before. She was strong and a wonderful cook and loved to gather up groups as huge as the turkey to feed. As we got older and left the nest, it was a given that all the extended families would come too. The food was fragrant and plentiful, the laughter and camaraderie even more so.
As the years went on many of us began alternating between Mom’s and our in-laws and then sometimes we even dared to stay home. My small family moved a distance away and it was not always possible to get ‘home’ for the Holidays. Though not a great cook, I was good at following recipes and dutifully carried on the traditions, though I never did perfectly master making pie crust and in later years even – gasp- served store-bought.
But there was one tradition I began on my own. I had found that Christmas Eve was almost too much to bear for my children. They couldn’t wait for Santa to come. Some folks gather around the television and watch Holiday movies, some play games. We did these things too, but the best remedy I ever found for Christmas Eve jitters was feeding them by fondue. We would cut and chop and get everything ready early in the day and then set up a pot or two full of bubbling oil. The pots progressed from butane flame to the magic of electricity. As our family expanded the extended family did too, and at one point we owned five electric fondue pots. What fun we had! Somewhere along the way we began stealing others’ food, shouting ‘Party Foul’ when someone dropped a morsel and wielding our forks like sabres. As if we needed more food!
The best addition to this tradition was when my youngest daughter suggested we start using broth rather than the dangerous oil we had been using. We had to adjust some things ~ no more breaded prawns or calamari for instance. But oh my, how much easier and safe it is. Tastier too.
Due to illness my eldest daughter is living back home for a while. Both our daughters had adopted a tradition around fondues, and when we began to think about Christmas, this daughter suggested we host dinner for a small group of friends this year. A couple of days later she came up with the idea of having a fondue on Christmas Day. I immediately agreed. There can be no other meal which is so easy to prepare and yet brings folks together in such an intimate and festive way.
Over the years my fondue became its own recipe. I am sharing it here:
4 giant shrimp or prawns
4 large scallops
6 Italian meat balls
Chunked beef, pork and chicken (about 1” cubes or a bit larger)
Cubed Havarti cheese
Mushrooms (and/or other veggies)
Lots of garlic bread ~ for our family anyway we have found that is the one thing we tend to underestimate. At least ½ baguette per person.
Sauces: Our faves: Cocktail, honey mustard, Sweet ‘n Sour, sweet chilli Thai
We sometimes serve salad but have found not many eat it, and sometimes squid which must not be breaded if using broth
This year we also found some cool-looking cocktail Snow Crab pieces to add to the mix. We will see how it goes, but I’m guessing we will be adding this to the ‘recipe’.
We are also going to live a little and try some bocconcini balls and a new cheese we just discovered, Fruilano. Of course you will begin your own traditions.
For dessert we are serving our all-time favourite, easy-peasy Rum Cake which can be made a day or so before, and in fact gets better with age:
Rum Cake 8 – 10 servings
1 cup Chopped or whole pecans or walnuts
1 pkg. Yellow cake mix (use a really good quality such as Duncan Hines)
1 pkg. Vanilla instant pudding and pie mix
1 cup cold water
½ cup cooking oil
½ cup amber rum (be generous)
½ cup butter
½ cup water
1 cup sugar
½ cup amber rum (same)
1. Grease and flower a 10-inch tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan
2. Mix all cake ingredients together. Pour batter over nuts. Bake in 325 F deg oven (160 C) for one hour. Let cool.
3. Meanwhile, prepare glaze. Melt butter in saucepan, stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum.
4. Invert cooled cake on serving plate. Prick top thoroughly (I use long turkey skewer). Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze (don’t skip this step). Repeat until glaze is used up.
We are so looking forward to enjoying our untraditional Christmas dinner with no fuss.
Best of the Season, Everyone!
Causes Sharon Tillotson Supports
Leukemia Research Foundation of Canada
Kidney Foundation of Canada