Our Christmas Dinner
Christmas is always an exciting day for Christians and at our home it is quite festive. After we open our gifts guests arrive to join us for dinner. Our dinners are traditional Parmesan Christmas meals. They are fantastically delicious, yet for some folks, an unpretentious feast.
The arrival of guests begins our festive day. We all gather in a cheerfully decorated room and mingle around a table with a little antipasto. Accompanying the antipasto are glasses of sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Asti Spumanti. We raise our glasses and spread love and affection amongst us.
With festive affectionate vibes in the air we move to the dining room table. The dining room table is always decoratively set for our Christmas meal. A tureen of anolini in broth is in the center of the table accompanied by the traditional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Also on the table is a bottle of Albana di Romagna seco (dry), Bardolino Rose Classico and Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, a bottle for everyone’s taste. Everyone is always totally satisfied with the traditional anolini.
My Parmesan family’s time-honored entrée of roasted capon with a spinach stuffing accompanied by Parmesan mashed potatoes is then presented and served. The entrée is followed by Insalata di Indivia Riccia, a truly exquisite chicory salad with semi-hard-boiled eggs.
This meal is endless in our hearts. However, for desert it is customary to have Zuppa Englese as we have always prepared it. Accompanying the Zuppa Englese are nuts, fruit and cordials.
Scroll down for the recipes which are also in the award winning cookbook, “The Cooking of Parma” authored by Richard Camillo Sidoli.
ANTIPASTI ASSORTITI di PARMA Parma’s Assorted Appetizers
In the Province di Parma one thinks first of Antipasti Assortiti which is an assortment of the finest cured meats. The antipasti may also include some fruit and cheese. The cured meats include coppa, culatello, pancetta, prosciutto, prosciutto di cinghiali, salami all delicately and systematically arranged on a platter. The meat is always cut fresh. It is never rolled or folded or pressed for this would damage the flesh. If fruit and/or cheese accompany the meats they would decorate the center. Lets make a platter with the available meat, and the fruits that blend the best. What we cannot purchase outside of Parma is culatello which is a similar to a prosciutto, prosciutto di cinghiali which is wild boar prosciutto, and the local salami which is the leanest salami particularly in the Apennine.
1 melon-cantalope or casabas
6 figs-in season
3 oz. Prosciutto di Parma
3 oz. coppa
3 oz. salame
Cut the melon in half, remove the skin and the seeds. Slice the melon. At one end of a platter place the melon slices next to each other. Clean the figs and slice them lengthwise. Display the figs flesh up, across the middle of the melons. Delicately arrange the coppa on one area of the platter. Repeat for the salame. When you put the Prosciuto on the platter it may be a little puffed up. Serve!
ANOLINI DI PARMA
Our basic fresh pasta contains a little water. The water aids in the binding of filled pastas, and we love our filled pastas. It is a light healthy pasta.
3&1/2 cups of flour
3 eggs extra large
1/2 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Put flour into a large mixing bowl. I use a bowl because I do not want flour all over the kitchen. Make a hole in the middle and put all the remaining ingredients in the hole. Mix it all into a round solid ball. Italian women begin the mixing by whipping the liquid into the flour with a fork. Then continue, by hand, to knead on the table or pasta board. The ball should be just a bit damp to the touch, not sticky or dry. Sometimes the humidity makes the difference. If too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. If it is sticky, spread a little flour on the table or pasta board while you knead. About ten minutes of needing is required. The dough should be smooth, elastic and a almost damp to the touch.
For the Anolini
3 quarts of broth
1 pasta recipe
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced fine
3 slices of Prosciutto chopped
1/2 lb. cooked pot roast
1/2 cup red wine
1& 1/4 cups sugo from pot roast
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup of ricotta
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preparing the filling:
Heat butter in a saute pan. Add onion, garlic and Prosciutto to hot butter and begin a sufri-saute. Cut pot roast into small pieces and add to saute. Cook until all ingredients are well blended. Add red wine to saute and slow boil for one minute. Add pot roast sugo-sauce, cover and simmer until meat begins to fall apart, 1/2 hour.
Allow to cool so that the saute can be handled, and chop through a meat grinder. If a food processer is used, stop the machine before pureeing the mixture. Add Nutmeg, parsley, ricotta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg and mix well
Make the anolini;
Roll out the dough as square as possible, paper thin, 2 pages thin. Cut out 1inch diamater disks, U. S. 1/2 doolars, and drop a half teaspoon of filling (the filling may be passed through a pastry bag on to the pasta dough) on half the disks. Paint the remaining disks an egg wash, cover fillings and seal tight When disks are cut there is exsess dough, Roll out and continue until all the pasta is used. Save any excess filling for veal birds.
If pasta is rolled out with a house hold machine, make two rows of filling, paint around filling, cover with another sheet of pasta, seel the pasta around the filling and cut out little full moon pillows.
I roll out the dough by hand, and use the first method. What ever method of preparation is chosen, practice develops efficiency and makes perfect. Save any excess filling for veal birds.
Cooking the anolini:
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, and slow simmer the broth. Put raw anoglini into the boiling water. As soon as they come to the top, transfer to broth and cook al dente, 8 minutes.
CAPPONE ARROSTITO RIPIENO di SPINACI Roasted Capon with spinach stuffing
Our favorite roasted bird with our favorite stuffing. It is a delightful meal to serve year round. However, it is always served on Christmas day.
1- 6 pound capon
3 lb. spinach or 3 packages 10oz frozen spinach
3 cups water (to blanch spinach)
3 tablespoons butter
The capon’s liver minced
4 scallions sliced fine
1 teaspoon basil
2 cups 1 inch cubed day old white of Italian bread
1/4 up milk
1/2 cup stracchino or other soft cheese
1/2 cup gratted Parmegiano-Reggiano
Salt & pepper to taste
Blanch the spinach in 3 cups rolling boiling water .It takes about 3 minutes. Immediately chill in cold water. Squeeze out as much water as possible from the spinach, and chop medium fine. While the water is boiling and spinach is blanching start the sufri-saute, and soak the bread in the milk. In a saute pan, heat the butter. Add the chopped liver and sliced scallion to the hot butter. If necessary lower heat to avoid burning. Cook liver well done..
Put the chopped spinach and soaked bread into a large mixing bowl. Add the sufrito, cheese, eggs and salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and well incorporated.
Fill the front and the rear cavity of the capon with the stuffing (Do not over stuff). If you wish, seal the rear cavity with large toothpicks or butcher’s twine
For the roasting pan:
1- 6 lb. stuffed capon
6 small white onions
2 cups af chicken broth
Preheat oven 450d.f.
Place a rack in a roasting pan with a 1/2 inch of broth and the small white oions. Put the stuffed bird on the roasting rack and roast in the 450 d.f preheated oven. Cook for 30 minutes and lower temperature to 325 d.f. Cook until golden brown, and leg and thy joints are loose to the touch and the juice runs clear. About another 2&1/2 hours depending on the size of the bird.
INSALATA di INDIVIA RICCIA Chicory Salad
2 semi hard- boiled eggs
1/2 pound of chicory
3 Italian plumb tomatoes cut into wedges
1 circular slice of red onion separated
1/2 red pepper julienne
3 tablespoons of shredded radish
3 tablespoons shredded carrot
1/2 cup mushrooms sliced thin
1/2 of a cucumber cut into 2 inch wedges
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil eggs for 7 minutes. The yolk should remain soft and a little liquidly in the center. Wash and clean the greens. Tear the chicory into 3 inch pieces and put it into large salad bowl. In the center of the chicory put thin slice of red onion separated into rings, the red pepper, the mushrooms, cucumbers, carrot and radish. Cut the tomatoes and eggs into wedges and alternate wedges of tomatoes and eggs around the outer rim of the salad. Dress with Oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
A very popular dessert That should not be confused with Italian Rum Cake or Tiramisu.
Zuppa Engese is more moist than rum cake and has more fruit in it. It is flavored differently that tiramisu. Zuppa Englese or English soup is an Italian rendition of English trifle, and is made differently in different provinces of Italy. For example: In Naples, they often have a layer of chocolate and cover the cake with a baked meringue, In Tuscany they makes it very similar to trifle and in Emilia-Romagna they cover the cake with whipped cream. I have served my rendition to thousand times over and my family is Emilia.
2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 lg. eggs
Zuppa Engese is shaped either as a dome or an American football. I have made both shapes. If you make the American football you have to cut the shape from cake. If you make the dome, you can bake the cake in an oven proof bowl.
Preheat oven 350 F.
Butter of flour baking pan or *bowl. Sift the flour into a bowl, grate the lemon zest into the flour, and mix in the salt. Put the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat the eggs to soft peaks, about 4 times in volume, and drizzle in the vanilla. Fold the flour into the beaten eggs. Simply have 1/3 of the flour snow lightly over eggs and fold the flour into the eggs, repeat the procedure 2 more times. Fill the dusted pan, and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Check the cake; it should be golden brown and coming away from the sides of the pan, test with a long toothpick. Stick the toothpick in the middle of the cake. It should come out clean.
For the cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon cornstarch
2&1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoon extract vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
4 extra large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 pint of heavy Cream
1 tablespoon of sugar or to your taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the cornstarch into a mixing bowl. Add a 1/2-cup of milk, stir, with a spoon, to dissolve the cornstarch, and whisk in the eggs. Mix the remaining milk and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the milk to the scolding point and lower the heat to keep the milk warm. Whisk the egg mixture again and slowly mix it into the hot milk. Cook the mixture until the whisk leaves lacy lines in the pastry cream. Remove the cream from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Poor the pastry cream into a heat proof glass dish, cover cream with buttered wax paper, cool and store in the refrigerator.
Put the heavy cream into bowl with an electric beater. Whip the cream to soft peeks, add the sugar and the vanilla and whip the cream to stiff peaks. Careful, avoid over whipping to butter.
The syrup and fruits
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 orange sliced
1/2 lemon sliced
1 cinnamon stick
!&1/2 oz light rum
¾ cup pitted bing cherries
¾ cup sliced strawberries
¾ cup peaches cooked al dente
To make the rum Syrup: Put the sugar, water, orange slices, and lemon slices and cinnamon stick in a pot, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 5 minuets, remove from the heat and allow steeping to room temperature. Strain the mixture, add the rum, funnel into a bottle and store in the refrigerator.
*If you do not have an oven proof bowl you can always use a metal mixing bowl.
Put the cake together: Cut the cake into about 1 inch slices with the bottom from the bowl the top of the dome. If you make a football shape cut the cake so that when they are put it together it will be in the shape of a football. OK, let’s put it together: first, we make the cream which is 2/3 pastry cream and 1/3 heavy cream, therefore, put the pastry cream into a mixing bowl and fold in 1/3 rd the volume of whipped cream to pastry cream. Second, place the bottom of the cake on a cake plate and moisten with the rum syrup, place a ¼ inch layer of cream over the wet sponge cake, place fruit on the cream to taste, repeat until the dome or football is formed. Third, cover with the whip cream, if you feel ambitious, put some whip cream in a pastry bag with a star tub and decorate. You may also pat some fruit dry and decoratively place on the cake.