My favorite movie of all time is Christmas Vacation – it stars a hapless Chevy Chase as Clark W. Griswold. He drains the Midwest’s entire power grid when he plugs in his holiday lights. When he toasts to his house full of guests, it’s from a moose cup filled with egg nog.
Maybe I’m not the only one who thinks Christmas kitsch is so much fun. In the spirit of that movie, comes the Miracle Pop-Up Bar – with over-the-top X-mas decorations and menus printed off to look like lists to Santa.
It got my mind whirring for a party of my own. The environment of the one I dropped in on had an office party feel to it – it made me nostalgic for my favorite gaudy sweater.
Florida’s got a handful of Miracle bars, all serving holiday craft cocktails that figure it must be five o’clock somewhere in the North Pole.
Call me old-fashioned…that was a joke!…I’ve started noticing that my favorite restaurants pride themselves on creating drinks with culinary value. They embellish on classics like the Negroni, Gimlet and Old-Fashioned with super fresh ingredients, and a whole heck of a lot of technique. Watch the bartender work on your drink, and you’ll see it’s quite an enterprise. They’re finishing off orders with crème Brule torches, and ringing glass tops with sugar and spice and everything nice.
The craft cocktail menu at the Miracle bar closest to me in Palm Beach, Death and Glory, had cinnamon bourbon for the naughty kids. Rum, peppermint and chocolate went to the good little boys and girls.
The main menu was a blast, too! For the Home Alone fans, there was a jerk chicken dish called LOOK WHAT YOU DID YOU LITTLE JERK, entrée salads that harken back to Seinfeld, A FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US and, naturally, many a Christmas Vacation reference. Save the neck for me, Clark!
But the craft cocktails were the reason for the season!
What I kept noticing were the hints of cranberry, rosemary, orange and wormwood bitters, butterscotch, absinthe mist and coconut rums – it was all beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.
So many of the drinks were almost too pretty to consume, so I came up with a holiday punch idea for my next party: a coconut margarita punch that had me saying Mele Kalikimaka!
So without further ado, here’s the Hawaiian way, to say Merry Christmas to you!
EXTREME X-mas Margarita Punch
Yields: about 6 drinks
For the punch
1 (14-oz.) can coconut milk
8 jiggers (or shots) silver tequila
5 jiggers (or shots) triple sec
Juice of a lime, about ½ cup
2 cups crushed ice
For the garnishes
Cranberries or pomegranate seeds
Rosemary sprigs, 6 to 8
In a blender, combine the coconut milk, tequila, triple sec, lime juice and ice. Blend until smooth.
Pour contents into a punch bowl, and garnish with sprigs of rosemary. Cranberries don’t float at the surface all that well, so for a beautiful colorful contrast, I suggest red cocktail napkins with this drink.
To prepare glasses, dip the rims in sugar and drop a few cranberries at the bottom. Accent each glass with a fresh lime wedge.
EXTREME PARTY PLANNER NOTE: Repeat recipe if it’s a large punch bowl that holds more than one yield from blender.
Ha! Here’s another funny tidbit. The three most googled food items for this year’s Thanksgiving were Popeye’s Cajun Fried Turkey, cornbread dressing and green bean casserole. I may have to give that Cajun turkey a try, it’s obviously popular.
If you are like me, Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the seasonal turkey experience. Yes, Virginia, there is another turkey dinner coming our way on Christmas. We alternate between an old-fashioned English holiday dinner starring roast “beast”, popovers and sticky toffee pudding on Christmas eve and the turkey dinner with all the fixins’ on Christmas day.
I took some notes from those googlers and offer you my two cents on my favorite holiday sides. The really convenient part about these holiday recipes, is that you can make them the day before and bake them while your turkey rests.
Recipe #1: Easy, Old School Dressing
My dressing is passed down from my mother-in-law. It’s not cornbread, but you could easily substitute cornbread in place of dried white bread. It goes like this.
Sautee diced onions and celery in a whole bunch of butter, until soft. I mean a serious amount of butter! Pour two packages of stuffing mix into a large bowl. Pour in those buttery veggies. Stir in a can of cream of celery soup. Then stir in another one. Things should be getting pretty gooey right about now. Add two beaten eggs, then pour in enough chicken broth to bind everything together.
Now, here’s the tricky part.
Spoon half of the dressing into one side of a large baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Stir in at least 1 cup (if not 2 cups) of golden raisins into the remaining dressing; then spoon this into the other side of the casserole. Just for good measure, douse the dressing with more chicken broth. Dot the top of the casserole with bits of butter.
Bake at 350° until the top is browned and a bit crunchy, about 30 minutes.
Tell the dressing purists to dig into the side without the raisins and invite everyone related to a Morgan to dig into the raisin side!
Recipe #2: Jorj’s Broccoli Casserole
It’s pretty old-school. I blanche broccoli florets until they are crisp-tender. Then I make a white sauce starting with butter and flour, adding whole milk and a gentle seasoning of salt, pepper and nutmeg. I add a bunch of sharp cheddar cheese and pour this over the broccoli. Before baking, I douse the top with fried onions (as an ode to that other green casserole).
Recipe #3: Straight Up Roasted Veggies
I blanched some Brussels sprouts until crisp tender and then placed them in a large bowl. I added cubes of butternut squash, sweet potato, zucchini and the tops of thick asparagus spears. I doused these with vegetable oil, salt, pepper and a generous amount of Tuscan seasoning – but you can add practically any spice and still have your veggies come out delish.
Spread the veggies onto a baking sheet and roast at 425°for about 20 minutes and you have another side dish.
Give These Recipes as a Gift This X-mas
You can find the recipes for my herb roasted turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie in my first book, At Home in the Kitchen which is still available almost 20 years after it was first published! Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a refresher.
Whether your holiday dinner includes a turkey, a roast, seven fishes or some stuffed shells, remember to linger a little with the hostess after the meal is over. You needn’t jump up from the table to see the game score, clear the dishes, or trudge to the easy chair for a nap. Take it from me, your host will enjoy the day more, if you, her treasured friends and family just sit a little while longer.