When I was growing up, my family usually had two big dinners for Christmas, one at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, and one at my aunt’s house on Christmas Day. My mom and my aunt are both great cooks, but despite my aunt’s fantastic shrimp cocktail appetizer and chocolate mousse dessert, by the time the evening of the 25th rolled around I felt like Christmas was over. Santa had come and gone, the presents had all been unwrapped, and everyone was a bit tired.
Christmas Eve was always the big event for me. Even as a child, I think I loved Christmas Eve as much as I loved Christmas morning. Christmas Eve is when we sang Christmas carols and felt the magical anticipation of what was to come the next morning. Christmas Eve is when the kids would plot how we would stay up late enough to catch our parents playing Santa Claus, while the adults got toasted and argued about politics, God, and football.
So as an adult, I decided Christmas dinner would always be on Christmas Eve in my house. And a few years ago, I stumbled upon the idea of cooking traditional Jewish food for Christmas dinner. I think I had the itch to make a beef brisket and the idea just blossomed from there. That year I made brisket, potato latkes, a buttery noodle dish called kugel, and a fruit dish I’ve forgotten the name of, although I do remember it had Manischewitz wine in it. That mostly-full bottle of wine sat in our pantry for over a year, mocking Adam by bringing back all of those painful Passover memories.
Anyway, I fell in love with the idea of making Jewish Christmas Dinner a tradition in the Mossoff home. I was looking for some kind of food-theme that would carry over from year to year, and I’m not really crazy about turkey or any of the other traditional foods. I also love the humorous dig at the supposed religious nature of the holiday!
That was in 2005. Now, finally, in 2009, we are having Christmas at home again and I’m getting my second chance to cook Jewish Christmas Dinner. I spent 3 days planning the menu and making my shopping list. Today, I do the grocery shopping, and tomorrow, I start cooking. I had to create a written schedule for the cooking because so much requires advance preparation (brisket is much better after sitting in the fridge for a day). Here is the menu:
Matzo ball soup (appetizer)
Jewish apple cake (dessert)
And check out the cooking schedule:
Noon – 1pm: Prepare and brown beef brisket
1pm: Get brisket into crockpot on high
2pm: Turn crockpot to low
4 – 5pm: Make chicken soup and refrigerate
7 – 7:30pm: Remove brisket from crockpot, separate meat and veggies, and refrigerate
10am – noon: Make apple cake
Noon – 12:30pm: Prepare matzo balls (don’t forget the schmaltz from soup) and refrigerate (for at least a half hour)
1 – 2pm: Prepare latkes batter and refrigerate
2:15 – 2:30pm: Take 6 eggs out of fridge and separate. Keep whites at room temperature.
2:30 – 3:30pm: Boil matzo balls and reheat soup; add matzo balls to soup and cook for a few minutes
3:30pm: Serve matzo ball soup
4 – 5pm: Prepare broccoli soufflé
5pm: Put soufflé in oven
5 – 5:30pm: Prepare brisket and veggies in 9X13 pan for oven
5:30pm: Put meat in oven with soufflé
5:30 – 6pm: Fry latkes
6 – 6:15pm: Make thicker sauce for meat if necessary
6:15: Dinner is served!
I am so excited to cook all of this good food! And now there are 3 of us to eat it instead of just 2.