STM82214 Jan Newsletter P2_STM82214 January Newsletter | Page 9

LETTER FROM THE CHEF What did you cook for Christmas dinner? You thought you were bad at Thanksgiving? That feast is really just the amuse bouche to all the holiday eating that goes down at the end of the year. After all, the month of December is pretty much filled with events where we stuff our face. And let’s face it, all the holiday parties, festive happy hours, appetizer-fueled functions and events, and awkward office parties with little plates full of sweet and savory treats all lead up to the main event -- Christmas dinner. Here, set on the table, we look forward to seeing our old pals like ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet glazed veggies, tangy cranberry sauce, and all the pies and cookies you can manage to squeeze in. But while these may be staple Christmas dishes across the states, you can find others around the world tucking into some different eats to celebrate the holidays. So I asked some of my foreign friends what they are cooking for dinner. The UK Possibly considered the most quintessential of all Christmas meals is the spread found atop the decorative red, green, and gold tablecloths in the UK. Unsurprisingly, it’s not that much different than what you’ll find on plates across the US, with staples like roasted or mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, roasted root veggies, cranberry sauce, and Brussels sprouts — but there are a few minor, yet noticeable, differences. Instead of a traditional Christmas ham, the Brits traditionally serve up a roasted bird like turkey, goose, or pheasant, and pigs in a blanket (in England this is a sausage wrapped in bacon) make regular appearances, as do meat pies, Christmas pudding (plum pudding), and the disturbingly textured bread sauce. Germany Since Santa Claus is from Germany, it’s a little disturbing to find venison on the Christmas dinner menu here, though carp and roasted goose are actually much more common. If you see goose, it’s probably stuffed with various things like apples, plums, chestnuts, onions — you might even find meat inside the meat via some savory mince meat stuffing. Sides often include German-style dumplings called Klöße, that are made from either potatoes or bread, slow- cooked red and green cabbage, and of course stollen, a dense fruitcake with nuts and dried fruit and a snow- like sprinkling of powdered sugar on top. Depending on whether you’re dining in the north or Bavaria, you may also spot creamed or pickled herring, Weisswurst, and decorative Christmas biscuits called Springerle. Italy While most of Europe and America are noshing on juicy oven-roasted meats, Italy looks to the sea for Christmas Eve dinner. Also known as The Vigil, this mostly Southern Italian tradition was born out of the common religious practice of abstaining from milk and meat dishes on the eve of certain holidays. As the name suggests, seven different types of seafood dishes cover the table, from clams, cod, and calamari to shrimp, smelt, and scallops; oysters, octopus, and snails also make appearances. Not into seafood? Don’t fret, there are also generous sides of pastas and veggies — and, of course, wine. It’s Italy, after all. Fiji Even the tiny and remote island of Fiji has its own unique way of dressing the Christmas table with a special feast. Here, you’re likely to chow down on hearty island fare like garlic-spiced and stuffed chicken, fish in banana leaves, and a tasty pork dish cooked in an underground hot stone oven. There’s also boiled cassava (what we know as tapioca root) and a spiced mutton dish that’s wrapped in a large leaf and cooked in a coconut cream sauce. France Like Italy, France chooses to look beyond land for most of its traditional Christmas dishes. The seafood-heavy menu makes for no poor man’s meal, with typical dishes that include high-class shellfish like lobster, oysters, and scallops (the latter are baked and served atop their own shells). The French Christmas spread also includes an assortment of cheeses, crepes, and fruit — and what’s a holiday celebration in France without a little foie gras? And let’s not forget the famed buche de Noel, a delicious chocolate cake in the shape of a log, often topped with a sprig of holly. Eric Fritsche Executive Chef 9