I’ve been away too long. It’s been over a month since my last post. To be honest, the holidays and me don’t really get along. I love all the food associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but all the other stuff (i.e. shopping, parties, school programs) really annoys me. Yea, I know, bah humbug. I do love Thanksgiving cooking though. All the home-cooked foods that remind me of my childhood, the gluttony and over-indulgence… isn’t it grand? I suppose that big meal, and all the leftovers, serve as a “last meal” of sorts because after Thanksgiving the shopping frenzy inevitably ensues.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving with just my family and my niece. Small and intimate and, like Lionel Richie sang, “easy like Sunday morning”. For turkey day, I kept things traditional. Candied sweet potatoes (no marshamallows, please, but definitely a splash of dark rum), Tina’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (the good kind thanks to Ms. Purvis at The Charlotte Observer), gravy and cranberry sauce out of a can – schhhllomp! And the turkey, roasted at high heat, stuffed with Tina’s stuffing – mm, mm, good.
I’ve got my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals planned and will start cooking tomorrow. Christmas Eve has always been spent at a friend’s house, with a ton of other neighbors, for cocktails, cookies and caroling. So, for dinner beforehand, we’re having spaghetti and meatballs. Click on this link for my favorite meatball recipe which, interestingly enough, includes currants and pine nuts. It sounds crazy, I know, but they are remarkably moist and I like that they are baked, not fried. The sauce recipe included in the link is similiar to mine, but I always add a teaspoon or two of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and we have never used parmesan cheese. In our house it’s always been Locatelli Romano. This morning I phoned Vic, my butcher, and ordered our standing rib roast for the big day. I’ll keep it simple and have it with mashed potatoes, a Dijon mustard & horseradish cream sauce and sauteed broccolini with garlic.
As many of you know, Christmas for Italian Americans is not Christmas without pizzelles. These thin, waffle-like cookies are a traditional treat this time of year and I figured I was long overdue to make them. I’ve never tackled them before. Typically, they are made in a pizzelle press and are anise or vanilla flavored. I’m not a huge anise flavor lover, so I opted to make hazelnut pizzelles. I bought my press at Bed, Bath & Beyond ($40 bucks) and grabbed a bag of hazelnuts at Trader Joe’s. They really are quite easy to make and are so tasty. Better yet, you can curl a hot pizzelle, fresh off the iron, around a wooden rod and make cannoli shells. Oh yea! I’ve made several batches now and I strongly suggest you toast/roast your hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes first. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer them to a towel and rub them to remove the skins (you won’t remove all the skins, but some). Then process them in your food processor until finely chopped. Here is the end result. Pizzelles, fresh off the press. Aren’t they pretty?
You’ll notice that my pizzelles are in a tall tin can. My mother always kept her holiday cookies in a Charles Chips can. I’m carrying on that tradition as well. We used to get Charles Chips potato chips and had to save the tins for mom’s cookies. That is where she kept her prized, paper thin sand tarts. Making those sand tarts was a long and laborious endeavor and Mom was careful to make sure they were stored properly with the slice of sandwich bread atop to prolong their life.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 oz finely ground roasted blanched hazelnuts (1/2 cup)
2 tsp. baking powder
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbl. Frangelico liqueur
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat Pizzelle press on setting 3 1/2 while preparing batter. Place flour, ground nuts and baking powder in a small bowl and stir with a whisk to combine; reserve. Place eggs and sugar in a medium bowl and beat with mixer on medium speed for one minute. On low speed, add the melted butter, vanilla and Frangelico in a steady stream and mix until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 10-15 seconds. Do not overmix.
Open pizzelle press and brush grids with a little vegetable oil. Do not use cooking spray or butter. Place approximately two teaspoons just slightly north of center on the grid. Repeat on second grid. Close and press and lock lid. Light will turn red and then green when pizzelles are done. Open lid and remove pizzelles to rack to cool. Can be served dusted with powdered sugar OR spread with Nutella and sandwiched.
Yield: 30 pizzelles
Happy Holidays, Y’all!