Iaciofano Family Christmas

While our Christmas traditions have morphed over the years to accommodate people coming, going, growing, moving, coming back and getting pets, if I were to be woken up at the stroke of midnight by the Ghost of Christmas Past (who I prefer to think of as Jimminy Cricket from the Disney version) and travel back in time to see Iaciofano Christmases gone by, I would probably note that not much has changed.

However, even though most families have their own traditions, for my family these "traditions" seem more like repetitive quirks at Christmas time, verging on holiday-onset OCD.

What could squeak past as normal during other times of the year somehow becomes magnified and perhaps clinically diagnosable at Christmas.

Take, for example, The Box's insistence on being the first to descend the stairs on Christmas morning to "check if Santa came," while suited up in a baby blue terry cloth bathrobe and

coppola

hat. The rest of us have to wait at the top of the stairs until he gives the OK.

Or I could site the the note from Santa (and Rudolph – signed with a paw print) that my Dad leaves speared on a Christmas tree branch ever year. When we ignore it, which we always do, he exclaims loudly, "LOOK AT THIS, GUYS! A LETTER! FROM SANTA!" Huh. Who'd've guessed?

We also have constant disagreements about the proper way to decorate a Christmas tree. The Box hates the angel that graces the top and refers to it as "the turkey buzzard." He was also wildly skeptical – and categorically alarmed – by my intention to spray paint a tree gold last year. I did it anyway and the result was magical. I recommend it.

Wrapping presents is yet another point of contention. I do all my Dad's wrapping. Not because he asks me to, but because he dumps all his gifts in my old room with the assumption that I'll do something about it. John has wrapping all figured out: most years, the gifts he gives are loosely wrapped in a paper towel held together by one meager piece of tape to which is attached a lined piece of paper – the card.

Somehow we all manage to sit down like civilized people (sort of) at the dinner table and eat with utensils – all the while shouting at Aunt Emily (so she can hear us) and peppering her with gin. The Christmas menu changes from year to year, as it's more experimental than Thanksgiving, but here are a few consistent favorites:

Manicotti

What You Need:

For the crepes:

1 doz eggs

1 cup milk

12 scanty T flour

salt to taste

pepper to taste

For the filling:

3 lb ricotta cheese

1 T chopped parsley

1 egg

salt and pepper

For topping:

Marinara sauce - your own recipe!

1 lb mozzarella shredded to sprinkle on top of manicotti

What To Do:

For the crepes:

Beat all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Grease and heat a small skillet. Ladle mixture into the skillet, turning it quickly until the bottom of the skillet is covered with batter.  The crepe will be very thin and will cook quickly.  Flip it over for a few seconds (if you can do the flip in the air, you get bonus points).  Transfer to platter and stack.

For the filling:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and fill crepes using about 1 T of filling per crepe. Place in baking pan with the "fold" side of the crepe facing down. Pour marinara sauce over crepes and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cauliflower Gratinee

Silver Palate Cookbook

What You Need:

6 T unsalted butter

4 cloves of garlic minced

4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto

florets of 1 large cauliflower cut into ¼ inch slices

2 T flour

1 ½ c heavy cream

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

1 ½ grated swiss cheese

½ c chopped parsley

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes.  Stir in the prosciutto and cook two more minutes.

Add the cauliflower and cook just until it begins to lose its crispness…3 minutes.

Stir in the flour and then the cream. Blend well. Season with cayenne and salt and pepper.  Heat to boiling and remove from heat.

Pour the cauliflower into a au gratin dish.  Top with cheese and parsley.  Bake until the top is lightly browned and bubbling – about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Filet Mignon

-

from the Silver Palate Cookbook

What You Need:

3-4 lbs of beef tenderloin

3 T Dijon mustard

1 1/2 T green peppercorns packed in water - drained

3 T coarsely ground green, white and pink peppercorns

8 fresh sage leaves

2 T butter - unsalted

salt to taste

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make a cut lengthwise down the center of the tenderloin through 2/3 of the thickness.  Spread the meat open and spread the mustard in a thin layer over the open tenderloin.

Scatter the green peppercorns evenly and press into the meat then sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the mixed peppercorn. Place the sage leaves in a row down the center.

Shape the tenderloin back to its original shape and tie with kitchen twine. Rub the outside of the meat with butter and press the remaining peppercorn blend onto the outside and sprinkle with salt. Place in a shallow roasting pan.

Roast meat for 45 minutes for rare. (10 minutes per 1 lb)

Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Finally, don't forget the

cookies

!