By Sheridan Lane, interim director, LLCC Culinary Programs and Operations
As we inch closer and closer to the holiday season, I start thinking about traditions and holidays growing up. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a family that was rich in well-established and cemented traditions that played out over and over exactly the same way each holiday season.
Thanksgiving feasts with all of the usual fixings that were made 100% from scratch. Then it was decorating the house and cutting our own Christmas trees followed by Christmas cookie making and plenty of holiday pajamas. Fresh squeezed orange juice while we unpacked our stockings and a Christmas brunch with the same menu year after year just to name a few. Annual cocktail parties both before and after Christmas, for each side of the family, and loads of quality time. To say I was blessed by a family that was able to manage ALL of that year after year is an understatement.
While there always seemed to be plenty of time growing up for all of those holiday niceties, fast forward to today, and there seems to be many more moving parts. Families move, change, shrink and/or grow as do their budgets. Fads and social sharing sites influence how traditions appear and then fade. School or work activities sometimes interfere, and even the ingredients and the recipes may need a few alterations. With a now global society that is connected in more and more ways, it seems the looming question is whether or not there will be time during a busy holiday season for traditions to even take place?
Traditions for many of us are so very special in lots of unique ways, yet to others, sticking to those traditions becomes burdensome or may be even just boring and tired. Interestingly enough, if you visit the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, you will find parts 1a, 1b, 2, 3 and 4 for the definition of tradition which actually celebrates not only the idea that for something to be a tradition it must be passed on year after year but also supports how culture, society and styles can move and still be included in the definition of tradition.
That being said, this holiday season, let’s drop one tradition that I think we can all agree upon exiting stage left– THE STRESS. If the turkey isn’t perfectly brined or the pie isn’t homemade, or we run out of time to decorate the gingerbread men, or fail to “Pinterest perfect” the whole house, let’s take stock in reminding one another of the commonalities that remain the same across many cultural or religious backgrounds.
Gather together, share in the season and ready ourselves for a new year with a joyful heart while appreciating the blessings and accomplishments, large or small, of the passing year. Let’s focus on the most important tradition of being kind to one another this holiday season. But for goodness sakes, “Help me cut this tree down, Ben. Uncle Riley, don’t forget to buy the bourbon for the homemade eggnog, and Mom, please get a ‘good do’ on the oyster dressing!”
This recipe is courtesy of the Bruce and Martha White family from Hillsboro, Ill. which included at least one sampling of the raw oysters before adding them to the recipe.
2 sleeves club crackers
1 pint raw oysters
1 stick butter cut into ½ tablespoons
1-2 cups warm milk
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×11 glass baking dish. Crumble 1 sleeve of crackers into the bottom of the dish. Arrange ½ of the pint of oysters in the dish (Cut oysters in ½ if large in size). Dollop the ½ tablespoon pieces of butter (up to ½ stick) around the dish. Shake dots of Worcestershire sauce around the first layer up to ½ tablespoon. Sprinkle with light salt and pepper. Repeat with the second layer. Drizzle the liquor from the oysters throughout the casserole. Then add enough warm milk over the layers until crackers are thoroughly moist. Bake in a 350 degree oven until browned on top (30-40 minutes).
This recipe is courtesy of Riley Lane …Well, actually we think this is the recipe but not entirely sure if he actually ever uses one! One work of caution – do not overdo it on the Eggnog during the Christmas Eve cocktail party.
12 egg yolks (set aside the 12 egg whites)
3 cups white sugar
1 quart half and half
1 quart heavy cream
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 T vanilla
In a sauce pan (double broiler if need), whisking constantly over low-medium heat, combine egg yolks, 2 cups sugar and half and half until eggs are cooked and mixture has thickened. Once cool add the vanilla.
In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form; set aside.
In a separate clean bowl, with a clean whisk, whip egg whites until thick, then gradually add sugar and whip until peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the egg whites, then fold the yolks into mixture. Sprinkle top with nutmeg.
Fill small coffee cups or rocks glasses 2/3 of the way with eggnog and add desired strength of bourbon or start your own tradition by using rum!