Getting together with family and friends is one of the best parts of the holiday season. It’s a time for a gentle pause in normal life to gather in fellowship with the ones we love and show them how much we care. The power of food brings us together to share our family’s food culture.
The hope is to create memories great enough that the next generation will want to carry on these family food traditions and the cycle will continue. Smells of these dishes transport us to another time and place where we first learned about our family food heritage.
The generations before us held on to this part of our family’s history and carried on these recipes, most without ever writing a single ingredient down. Now a generation or two past, some of us are losing these precious pieces of their family’s food culture.
At any point of the day, communication is at our fingertips. Yet some of these recipes are slipping through the proverbial cracks. Whether it is a general lack of interest on a new generation’s part or simply a more complex way of life, it seems more often than not kids are spending less time with their parents and grandparents in the kitchen. Our ancestors found ways to give us the gift of our family food history. We could say that things are “just different” nowadays and accept it, or we could be proactive and start protecting these memories.
Food becomes a family’s legacy – whenever a recipe from “Aunt Mary Lou” is present, so is she. At a grandmother’s funeral, a eulogy might note: “If you are in this room, you at some point had your feet under this woman’s kitchen table,” evoking years of memories of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and special celebrations.
In today’s world, we can tweet about a dental visit and proclaim our road rage in a status update, so I am sure that we can all find a way to pass along favorite family holiday dishes. Grab a pen and paper – or even a computer mouse – and call a loved one to jot down some favorite recipes before it’s too late.
Chef Troy Gagliardo is a Mooresville-based television personality, writer, restaurateur and entrepreneur. He blogs weekly at LakeNormanMagazine.com.
Banana Nutella Stuffed French Toast Sandwich
Makes four sandwiches.
8 slices white bread1 container Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread2 bananas, sliced into rounds4 tablespoons unsalted butter4 fresh eggs2 tablespoons brown sugar1 teaspoon vanillaWhipped cream to tasteCocoa powder for garnish
Warm a non-stick pan or electric griddle to medium high heat.
In a shallow baking dish lightly beat eggs. Combine with brown sugar, vanilla and mix well.
Spread a thin layer of Nutella on each piece of bread. Create four sandwiches with banana rounds in the middle.
Soak sandwiches one at a time in the egg mixture, about 15 seconds per side.
Place half of the butter in the skillet or griddle to melt. Cook sandwiches two at a time until golden brown on each side, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
Cut each sandwich in half and place on a serving platter. Top with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder and serve.
Cranberry Pomegranate Goat Cheese Bread Pudding
Serves 8 to 10 people.
10 cups French bread cut into one-inch cubes1 cup fresh cranberries8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 1/2 cup whole pecans, chopped
Custard: 4 large eggs1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar1 teaspoon almond extractJuice and zest from 1 orange (reserved separately)3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (available at gourmet specialty stores)4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly4 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees with rack in the center of the oven.
In pot, warm milk over medium heat until warmed through. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, almond extract, orange juice, pomegranate molasses and melted butter until all are incorporated.
While stirring slowly, add the warm milk a little at a time until all has been incorporated.
Place the bread, cranberries and half of the goat cheese in large flat container, preferably not a bowl. Pour in custard and gently stir to coat the bread. Let stand for 30 minutes to one hour.
Lightly butter or spray a 9 x 13 baking dish and add the bread/cranberry mixture with any remaining custard. Place the baking dish in a large roasting pan and fill half way up the sides with hot water. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
Open oven and gently slide out rack with bread pudding and scatter the pecans, orange zest and remaining goat cheese over the top. Slide rack back in and continue to bake until custard is set, 15 to 20 minutes. Check by gently pressing down on the bread pudding. If any of the custard rises to the top, continue to bake in 5 minute increments until set.
Remove the bread pudding from the oven/water bath and let cool slightly before serving.
Serve warm with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Roasted Tomato & Asparagus Frittata
Serves 4 to 6 people.
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil1 tablespoon unsalted butter9 eggs1 pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces12-15 grape tomatoes8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded2 green onions, thin sliced, white bottoms and green tops saved separately1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the frittata: Add eggs to a mixing bowl, beaten together. Combine eggs with asparagus, sliced onion whites, salt, pepper and half of the cheese.
Warm olive oil and butter in a 12 inch iron skillet over medium heat and add the eggs.
Using a rubber spatula, slightly move the eggs that are starting to set on the bottom of the skillet, allowing some of the raw egg to flow to the surface and begin to set.
Let cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes and then evenly distribute the asparagus, tomatoes and remaining cheese.
Place in oven until egg is golden and firm to the touch, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, place a plate on top of the skillet and flip skillet over.
Remove the skillet, leaving frittata bottom side up. Serve immediately cut into wedges. Garnish with sliced green onion tops.