Monday, January 01, 2007

CHRISTMAS EVE, VTB-STYLE.'re probably wondering what I did for Christmas Eve.

In a word, "EATING!"

My parents always host Christmas Eve, and it's not exactly a somber affair.

This year, the debauchery started at 4pm and ended at 11:30pm. We were sixteen for dinner; nineteen for appetizers. Aside from my parents and I, there were my brother FrankenFeet and his family, my sister and hers, FrankenFeet's step-daughter and her fiance, family friends "Arm & Butt" from my parents' ski club, Arm's daughter, and a few other drop-in's and drop-out's.

The night typically starts with drinks when the guests start arriving. We then slide into the appetizers. Above, we see a shrimp-based ceviche that my mother made. We usually have one new dish each year or so, and this was it for 2006.

Also on the appetizer table was a mountain of chilled shrimp, with two cocktail sauces. One was a standard cocktail sauce with horseradish, and the other was a mixture of wasabi mayo and ketchup. I tried, but Mom wouldn't let me add cilantro.

Smelt-o-rama! Smelt is probably the most important dish of the night. It has *always* been on the Christmas Eve menu. It has special meaning, because my Grandfather was the smelt chef when Christmas Eve was at their house during the 70's. For the last decade or so, I've taken over that job.

We treat smelt as an appetizer now--because they soften if left sitting around. I fry them up on "The Runway" (i.e., a section of my Mom's countertop that may only be used for food all other times, it must--under penalty of death--remain 100% free of clutter) while others inhale the shrimp and tortillas and salsa and dips.

Another appetizer (which somehow managed to escape my camera) were clams. Five dozen clams--most of which were snarfed by my nephew Nicky-baby.

Smelt-frying is a two man job, so I recruited my sister as my assistant--an assistant who was far too overdressed for such a messy task. She dredged the smelt in flour, dipped in egg and dredged in flour a second time while I manned the fryer. We did a split batch last night: half the smelt done the traditional way, the other half with Cajun spice spiking the flour. Most preferred the latter. Sorry, Grandpa.

Pardon the cheesy smile, but smelt brings out the nut in me.

More smelt-induced cheesiness; this time, with the help of Arm's daughter.

In between the appetizers and the sit-down meal, Santa always stops by with gifts for the kids. None of the kids ever questions why Arm has mysteriously disappeared during each of Santa's visits during the past ten years. Perhaps he's Santa-phobic?

After Santa leaves and Arm re-appears, we move into the dining room for the sit-down meal.

Which features spaghetti with oil/garlic/anchovy sauce, and spaghetti with red calamari sauce.

And also, Cajun crawfish and scallops.

BTW...If you're wondering why there's such an encroachment of Cajun food in our otherwise traditional Italo-American menu, the answer is simple. Arm is from Louisiana.

And also, an endless supply of crab legs. FrankenFeet and Dad boiled them on the deck, using the turkey deep-fryer to speed things along.

After dinner, we do the Secret Santa gift exchange. We each draw names from a hat in November, and buy a Secret Santa gift for that person. The tradition quickly turned into a contest to see who comes up with the cleverest (or most raunchy) gag gift.

This year, I drew my mother's name. I bought her a rather large, jolly, terra cotta Buddha for The Runway--whose belly Mom rubbed for about twenty minutes.

And finally, FrankenFeet's step-daughter (who is a pretty talented baker) brought dessert. I am proud of this girl, because it was I who began giving her baking and dessert cookbooks for Christmas since she was thirteen years old.

And that, my friends, was my Christmas Eve. Any celebration that combines Italian food, Cajun food and Buddha seems a night worth telling others about.


At 12:05 AM, Blogger nyana said...

Darling, I tell you Turkey is SO not trendy any more - most people shake things up these days!
Your Christmas seems brilliantly entertaining with heavy coconut absence. (What happened there?)
Anywho, good thing you are back because Martha missed you a lot.

At 1:02 AM, Blogger christina said...

Ooh, can we all call you Darling? :-)

That's some AWESOME spread, and you look pretty damn happy about it. I can see you're having a fantastic time. Keep up the good work.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Di Mackey said...

Pure gold ... I didn't know which was more beautiful, the food or the family Christmas. Thanks for sharing :)

At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude - what's up with Arm's daughter? ;o)

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Di Mackey said...

P.S ... is adoption a possibility?

I can provide references.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Angie said...

Somber, or sober?

Also, I think I need a Buddha like that!

At 12:40 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hello, darlings!

Believe it or not, this same party has been taking place each Christmas Eve for the past forty-plus years. It's just that this year's was a bit more...shall we say..."physical" than past installments.

Lady Di, you want to be adopted? Fine! But I have first dibs on the the WaveRunner, for inheritance purposes.

Nyana, you can rest easy. My mother baked chocolate and COCONUT bars for dessert.

Christina: Yeah, I was pretty happy. Paella will only take you so far in life.

Angie, yours is a question to which you already know the answer (i.e., neither!).

At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great night! The food all looks amazing. Glad you had a good visit with the fam! Happy New Year!!

At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To say a good time was had by all would be a monumental understatment. Can't wait til next year.

Arm & Butt

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Di Mackey said...

The waverunner is yours ... I want nothing more than the family thing you guys have going ... looks fantastic :)

At 4:22 AM, Blogger Chris said...

What an absolutely fabulous dinner party! Nicely done!

My Blog

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and now i'm hungry! wow what a great celebration :)

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Mrs. TBF said...

Except for the cajun influence, you've got all the Italian essentials on Christmas Eve - the shrimp, crab legs, clams even!!! In my days prior to becoming Mrs TBF, I grew up eating all these things on Christmas Eve. The twist was that my parents owned a liquor store and we didn't start our meal until the store closed at MIDNIGHT on Christmas Eve (the biggest night of the year for cash intake btw)!
Happy New Year, Sal!


Post a Comment

<< Home