Over the years, my family’s Christmas and Christmas Eve traditions have morphed and changed. Tiny tots or the lack of have been a key driver to where and how we spend the holidays. It all started with my mother. As soon as my sister came along, she declared that children should be home for Christmas. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins were welcomed with open arms. The more the merrier as long as Mom didn’t have to pile kids and dogs and presents and onsies into the car. Her kids were going to sleep (or not) in their own beds on Christmas Eve.
Years later, my sister and brother followed Mom’s example. That’s when the holiday became a mini road trip for Mom, Dad and me. Christmas Eve was spent with John and family and Christmas Day with Brenda and her crew. They lived less than an hour apart so the trip was far from taxing.
Today, there are no wee babies or even small children in the family. There haven’t been for a while. In addition, my brother and family now live a couple of miles down the road. For the past few years, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at my house. The better part of Christmas Day has been spent at John’s. But, you ask, what about my sister and fam?
Since we always try to do our best to extend any holiday for another day or two or three, the fun continues. Dad’s birthday is the 27th (yes, poor Daddy-o is an almost-Christmas baby), so, Brenda and family come over for a post-Christmas plus birthday celebratory brunch.
Of all these events, I think that Christmas Eve dinner is quite possibly my favorite. If I’m smart, I have all my presents bought and wrapped. My little tree is decorated, nutcrackers guard the mantle and greens fill the house with a piney scent. Best of all, around four o’clock, my nieces burst in the door ready to cook.
When they were little, their father called them the twirling girlies. They had boundless energy then and they have boundless energy still. They are smart, resourceful and brave. Not to mention, they have the most beautiful smiles. Just being in a room together makes me happy.
Aprons are passed out. We put on some music, pop a cork, maybe two, chat, laugh and chat some more. All the while, there is a whole lot of chopping, stirring and rolling going on. The table is set in festive red and green. Cooking tips are passed back and forth. Family history is shared. New news is exchanged. In spite of whatever bias I may harbor, I can state unequivocally that these are three remarkable young women. Plus, two out of the three really like to cook. The third is not quite there yet but she’s slowly coming around. In any case, all cooks love both an audience and someone to entertain them. She handles both tasks beautifully.
It is a wonderful thing to share something you love with people you love. I’m sure there will come day when our traditions will morph and change again. For now, I’m just relishing the time I get to spend with the girlies in my kitchen.
Wishing you a happy holiday season filled with love and joy. Bon appétit!
Roasted Butternut Squash & Sausage Tart
Christmas morning or birthday celebration, this hearty quiche is perfect for a festive brunch. Enjoy!
- Savory Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
- Olive oil
- 1 pound Italian sausage – sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed
- 2 cups (about 8 ounces) seeded, peeled and chopped butternut squash
- Apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- About 2 cups (8 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
- About 1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Pinch nutmeg
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 cups half & half or whole milk or a mix
Roll out the Savory Flaky Pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with the pastry and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Breaking it up into small pieces, sauté the sausage until cooked through, remove from the pan and drain. Cool to room temperature.
Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme and toss to combine. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender. Cool to room temperature.
Bump up the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
Put the cheeses in a bowl, sprinkle with the flour and nutmeg and toss to coat.
Put half cheeses in the tart shell and top with the vegetables and sausage. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.
Put the eggs and mustard in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Slowly add the half & half, whisking until well combined. Leaving at least 1/4-inch at the top of the tart shell, pour in the egg mixture.
Transfer the tart to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until the custard is set and tart is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.
Savory Flaky Pastry
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold, cut into small pieces
- 2-4 tablespoons ice water
Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
- One Year Ago – Quinoa & Lentil Pilaf with Roasted Broccolini
- Two Years Ago – Sweet Potato Polenta
- Three Years Ago – Spicy Shrimp Chowder
- Four Years Ago – Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
- Five Years Ago – Spiced Chai
- Six Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
- Seven Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
- Eight Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
- Nine Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
- Ten Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
- Eleven Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019