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Volume 37 Issue 10, - June 28-July 4, 2007 now in our 37th season

Holiday Potluck

by Maryjane Mojer

The holiday season can be a double-edged sword.  The joy of family and friends, gathered around your table, sharing a meal and memories is enough to thrill some and send others into the depths of despair.  Such a wonderful way to celebrate and a great way to add more gray to your hair and a few more worry lines to your furrowed brow. (Not that you have one!)  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  I love to make lots of food for lots of people.  I have friends who hyperventilate when they need to make a piece of toast.  Years ago, my friend Karla called me just thrilled at having cooked her first turkey.  It was picture perfect, she said.  Golden brown, gorgeous; a work of culinary mastery.  “What did you stuff it with?” I asked. “Oh,” she replied. “No need to.  It came already stuffed.” I’m sure she wasn’t the first or the last person to cook a turkey with the gizzards and bits still encased in the bag, tucked into the bird.  I think that her decision to become a vegetarian is based on the fear of ever having to cook another turkey.

Cooking for me is a passion and a business.  I am so very fortunate to be able to make a living and feed my family by feeding other people.  Talk about your win-win.  There is a tremendous satisfaction in making stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pies that will go on so many tables and become part of  someone else’s family tradition.  We’re all good at something and not everyone is good at making gravy or baking pies.  Sharing recipes is also a special joy.  Cooking a holiday meal can be trying, and having a tried and true recipe can make the event a bit less stressful and add to your own family traditions.  Cooks are much like gardeners.  We all love to share our knowledge and learn from others; share all the tips and tricks.  The appreciation that both cooks and gardeners have for each others’ abilities is palpable and wonderful.  Sharing last years pumpkin seeds along with Grandmas Pumpkin Pie recipe seems right.

Because we’re surrounded by water and often at the mercy of the weather, the holidays are a wonderful time to share your table with others; especially people you may not get to know otherwise.  While my Mom always said that the young Coast Guardsmen and Navy boys needed a home-cooked meal for the holidays, I believe in my heart that she really just had a thing for men in uniform.  No matter.  We always had room at the table and plenty of food for those who may not have been able to get off island during the holidays.

If this is your first holiday meal,  and you choose to open your door and share your table, keep in mind that everyone is there to have a great time.  No matter what you make, or how incredible it is, what your family or guests will really remember is the time spent together.  The great food you’ll make is a bonus.  Having guests over for a holiday meal is not unlike having summer visitors.  The key is to be prepared.  Take some time before the onslaught of holiday madness to put together your menu, find the recipes you need and assemble your ingredients.  Clean your house, scrub the fridge and stock up on Ziplocs.  Unless you’ve figured out how to bend the space-time continuum, the holiday will happen anyway.  It can be very tempting to do it all yourself, and just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  When you have guests, having them bring something helps them to be a part of the celebration and to enjoy the day more.  They may have a special tradition or dish that you may make part of your next holiday.  Sharing works both ways.

When my husband and I met twelve years ago, it was just before Thanksgiving.  He was taking his daughters to his Mom’s house in the Catskills; to a place he kept calling “The Church.”  The tune to Alice’s Restaurant resonated in my head, and I thought calling his Mom’s house “The Church” was just a quirky throwback; a tribute to the song. Then, I went there…to The Church.  To my absolute joy, it’s actually a church.  It sits on a hill, in the middle of the Catskills.  The twelve-foot stained glass windows still in place, the arch of the gable rising high above the beautiful brick chimney.  It’s one large room with the kitchen on the pulpit, and our time there is akin to indoor camping.  It’s also the one place in the whole world (or, at least what I’ve so far seen of the whole world) where I can sleep soundly and past six a.m. This makes it a vacation as well as a celebration, even if it’s just for a day or two.

When we go off to my mother-in-law’s for any holiday, I don’t cook.  I am spoiled, I must say.  My mother in law makes the world’s best turkey, my sisters-in-law, Kim and Lisa, take care of the appetizers and side dishes.  My nephews have brought anything from corn bread to salads, my brother-in-law brings the wine.  (Though not enough—we’re working on that.)  When I do cook, I make this Scallop Stuffing.  It’s great when it’s roasted inside the turkey, and pretty darn good just baked in a casserole

Nantucket Bay Scallop Stuffing 

In a sauté pan, cook 2 pounds Nantucket Bay scallops until just starting to caramelize.
Remove from pan, cool.
In same pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter
Saute until translucent:
            1 cup finely chopped celery
            1 cup finely chopped leeks
Deglaze pan with one cup white wine
Add two cups chicken broth
Add scallops to the mixture.
Add 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

Pour over six cups of cubed, toasted bread (or your favorite stuffing mix).  Toss lightly so you don’t break up the scallops.

If you prefer to cook your stuffing in the turkey, remember that it will take a while longer for the bird to cook.  For my money, it’s worth the wait.  If you like bacon, add a bit of cooked, crumbled bacon to the final mixture.

Lisa’s Waldorf Salad

Six Granny Smith Apples, skin on, cut into cubes
Tossed with 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 cup Walnuts, lightly toasted and rough chopped
1/2 cup of Celery, sliced thin
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Honey 

Combine apples with lemon juice.
Combine mayonnaise with honey
Toss walnuts and celery with raisins.
Mix all together. Chill for one hour before serving.  Best served the same day.

Kims Celery

1 pound of cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
One bunch of celery, washed and cut into 5 inch pieces
Combine first four ingredients
Spread onto celery sticks

As we welcome more and more families into our community, getting to know each other is a gift itself. Opening our doors, sharing our meals, sharing our tables and traditions. What better way to celebrate and honor the holidays?

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