This year's holiday celebration was one of the most memorable on record. The only thing that creates a hold back on perfection is that Psychgrad and "R" were out west with "R"'s family. We were a collection of family and friends who shared the non commercial joys of the season.
We were at my brother's home and I love that he's a foodie and also pays attention to detail.
We decided to not go with the traditional North American dinner and opted to have a cultural celebration. Everyone had a contribution to bring so you could say it was a pot luck dinner.
I was excited to learn about traditional Venezuelan Christmas foods. The first is call Pan de Jamon, a ham, raisin and olive bread. A sweet, soft dough is rolled up around savory ham, sweet raisins and pimento-stuffed olives.
The dough is deliciate and soft and the filling, as unusual as it sounded to me initially just works. The Pan de Jamon is something that I'll definitely try. I was lucky enough to have it made for us by our friend Carlos of Empanada fame. Not only is he a great cook, he also shares his knowledge enthusiastically.
If you're in the Toronto area you could also do this the easy way and give Jose of Pimenton a call.
Jose is also known in our circle for his boozy gluten free Christmas cakes, great food and fun cooking classes.
My next fascination is with the Christmas Hallacas, kind of a tamale; served either as an appetizer or a main dish. To say tamale really minimizes the effort it takes to make this dish. Some make it at family gathering that takes a full day with all involved or for Carlos who didn't have alot of help, it was a 4 day ordeal. A Masa corn dough filled with a stew and wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves, the finale is in placing them in a pot of boiling water for an hour to marry all the flavours together.
and of course a vegetarian one for "A"
I've included a recipe in the links below. I suspect that each region has it's own version with variations in the spice mixture. The one thing that's for sure, the hallaca is a labour of pure love and I savoured every mouthful.
There was a fully stuffed Tofurkey complete with vegetarian gravy. I had no idea vegetarian gravy could be so good.
For the poultry lovers, we had Chicken Scallopini stuffed with Fontina Cheese (one of Giada's recipes - see below)
and a Quinoa Everything Salad
Of course, by this time you're on overload already but somehow just have to find a little more room for desserts.
We generally finish off with a round of table musicians - oops...we forgot all about it.
Suki was on guard through the whole thing just to make sure that if anything dropped, it didn't hit the floor.
Disclaimer: I just couldn't include EVERYTHING - this post would have been 3 days long :)
Pan de Jamon