Friday, December 22, 2017

Foods of the December Holidays.

December is a month of many holidays, to name everyone would take about a full newspaper page, so here is a few most Americans may have heard of, or even practice.

Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
Hanukkah (Jewish)
Christmas Day (Christian)
Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
Kwanzaa (African American)
Omisoka (Japanese)
Yule (Pagan)
Saturnalia (Pagan)

By the way, the Twelve Days of Christmas are December 25th to January 5th, aka Twelvetide, a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ; and the dates change dependent on which sect of Christianity you practice.  December 26th is known as Saint Stephens Day, or Boxing Day; all I know is that it is my birthday, and yes, I do expect presents…that’s a little hint right there.

For Hanukkah, potato latkes and doughnuts (sufganiyot) are requirements, while brisket is the traditional meat served.  Traditional Yule foods include festive meats, winter vegetables, and colorful preserved fruits.  Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples), apples, mulled wine, beans, and oranges.  Omisoka is the Japanese New Year’s Eve (celebrated December 31st); Toshikoshi soba is Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten. This custom lets go of hardship of the year because soba noodles are easily cut while eating.

Depending on where you live in this massive world of ours, traditional Christmas main dishes are culturally inspired.  Roast goose or roast beef in Britain, whole roasted pig in the Philippines, Feast of the 7 Fishes in Italy, tamales in Costa Rica; and immigrants have brought these traditions to this United States as well.  Growing up, my family had roast turkey with all the trimmings, it was Thanksgiving all over again!  Later on, celebrating with other families, I experienced glazed ham with raisin sauce; Peking duck thinly sliced and layered onto Mandarin pancakes smeared with hoisin sauce; Sauerbraten (translated “sour roast meat”) and German potato salad.  Oh yes, my culinary palette has had an amazing educational experience when it comes to food.

Personally, my food philosophy, and Roy has embraced this too, is to try anything and everything once.  May not like something, might even find it to be totally disgusting, but at least can honestly say, “Yes, tried it, and no, do not like it.”  Or who knows, may simply love it to the point of craving it.  This is the point of this entire story, do not give up traditions, but do not give up on learning.  Also strive to try something new; this is, to me, the meaning of life, of existence, to learn something new each and every day.

So, from the Cokenour household, Happy Holidays to All, be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Yule, or whichever belief you hold dear.  Oh, and here’s my recipe for Prime Rib, in case you’ve never experienced it…enjoy!

Normally a prime rib roast comes with the bones attached.  You can do several things with the bones once removed; use them as a rack for the roast to rest on while roasting; cook them separately to eat later on; use them to make beef stock.  Or you can ask your butcher to remove them for you and not deal with them at all; to me, that's a complete waste.  Prime rib usually comes with a thick fat cap also; I removed a good portion of it so I could get the seasoning rub onto the meat itself, but left enough fat so the meat could self-baste while roasting.

Prime Rib


1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth
1/2 can of water
4 large shallots, peeled and split into sections
2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 lb. prime rib; bones removed


Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil; pour the beef broth and water in.  Place the shallot sections in the pan so that the prime rib will be located over them.  Spray the rack with nonstick spray and place into the pan; be careful not to tear the foil.

Mix together the rosemary, thyme, garlic and onion powders, black pepper and salt.  Brush olive oil over top of the prime rib; spread seasoning rub onto it.

Place the roast onto the center of the rack; make sure it is over the shallots.  Roast the beef for 45 minutes at the 400F temperature; turn the temperature down to 300F and roast to desired doneness.  A meat thermometer is going to be your best friend with this process as it will tell you the internal temperature and, therefore, how you like your meat cooked.  125F is rare, 135F is medium-rare, 145F is medium and 155F is well; anything over that, in my opinion of course, is shoe leather.  In the words of Doctor Who, it's a "wibbley wobbley, timey wimey" process.

Once you have the roast at the desired doneness, pull the entire pan out of the oven, remove the roast to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let it all rest for 30 minutes.  This lets the juices from the roast redistribute back throughout itself; then place the roast on a cutting board and cut one inch slices.

You're probably wondering about the beef broth, water and shallots?  This is what you'll use to make either an au jus or a gravy; first remove the shallots with a slotted spoon.  Then pour all the remaining liquids and solids into a freezer safe plastic bowl; put the bowl into the freezer for 45 minutes; the fat will rise to the surface, solidify and you can just remove it easily with a spoon.  Pour the fat free liquid through a strainer to remove any bits of missed solid fat or herbs.  That will give you a lovely clear, herbal flavored au jus; or you can put the liquid into a saucepan, add a tablespoon of corn starch, bring it to a boil and make a gravy.  The shallots?  I chopped them up finely and added them to the au jus, but they could just as well be served on the side of a prime rib slice.

Now what did I do with those rib bones?  Glad you asked.  I seasoned them up a bit differently by using my all-purpose seasoning rub.  After the prime rib was done, I popped them into the 300F oven, sitting on an aluminum foil covered rack in a pan; I let them roast for 3 hours.  They made a good snack for my hubby later on.

Mary Cokenour