Suddenly we heartily exhort one another to be merry and jolly. Bells jingle. Halls are decked, preferably with boughs. Tidings are brought. Yond virgins are round. Chestnuts are roasted and flocks are watched by quaking shepherds. Jack Frost is nippy, and the spirit of the Yule is everywhere. Sleigh bells are ringing like nobody’s business. Apparel is donned, stockings are hung with care (though with no care whatsoever for proper grammar), and mistletoe dangles enticingly over the heads of, invariably, the wrong people.
As with all feast days, odd food is a feature that takes pride of place at Christmas. No proper Noël would be complete without fruitcake, flaming plum pudding, and turkey that Father is expected to suddenly know how to carve. Off he goes for his annual YouTube refresher course while Mother Google’s gravy and slips in a can of St. Hubert just for insurance. Don’t say you never have! A jiggle of cranberry sauce is slipped directly from can to bowl with a satisfying sucking sound. Granny, who came from afar bearing her own weight in fruitcake, shoots sharp glances at young folk in a non-verbal and ineffectual effort to separate them from their phones. Green Bean Casserole bubbles out of the oven awash in condensed mushroom soup and topped with a crown of canned onion rings. And then there’s the turnip puff.
I say “odd food” because like the words we dust off exclusively for use at Christmas time, the menu is not one we enjoy regularly throughout the year. I have no idea how many times I’ve heard people say that they don’t particularly like turkey, but it’s a lot. Stuffing is an oddity, popular because it is, at bottom, bread soaked in butter, though Europeans are often baffled by it.
Like gravy, it’s firmly off everyone’s diet except at Christmas.
- 3 cups cubed peeled turnips
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 egg
- 4-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Dash pepper
- Dash ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (for topping)
- 2 teaspoons butter, melted (for topping)
Place turnips in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain; mash with butter. Cool slightly.
Beat in egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg; stir into turnip mixture.
Spoon into a 3-cup baking dish coated with cooking spray. Toss bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and a thermometer reads 160°.
Classic Green Bean Casserole
from campbells.com (where else!)
- 1 can Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 dash black pepper
- 4 cups cooked cut green beans
- 1 1/3 cups French’s® French Fried Onions
Step 1 – Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
Step 2 – Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.
Step 3 – Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
- 1 pound day-old white French bread, diced into 1/2-inch cubes and dried
- 1 extra-large (about 2 1/2 cups) sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, diced small
- 1 1/2 cups celery, diced small
- 2/3 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely minced
- 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, finely minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary (sticks discarded), finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (sticks discarded), finely minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 250F. Place cubed bread on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until dried out, about 45 minutes. You must begin with very dry bread or it’ll turn to mush. Tip – To save time on the day of, bake and dry out the bread the night before and leave uncovered on the counter uncovered until the morning you’re ready to make the stuffing.
When you’re ready to make the stuffing, transfer bread to a very large bowl; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 9×13-inch pan or 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
To a large skillet, add 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter and heat over medium-high heat to melt.
Add the onions, celery, and cook until vegetables have softened and are just beginning to lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Transfer vegetables to bowl with bread.
Add the parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, 1 1/4 cups chicken broth, and toss well to combine; set aside. Note about salt – the saltiness level of low-sodium chicken broth varies, and so do personal preferences, so salt to taste.
To a small bowl, add the remaining 1 1/4 cups chicken broth, 2 eggs, and whisk to combine. Pour mixture over bread and toss well to combine. Turn mixture out into prepared baking dish.
Dice the remaining 1/4 cup (half of 1 stick) butter into 8 to 10 pieces and evenly dot the butter over the top of the stuffing. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until top is as lightly golden browned as desired. Serve immediately. Stuffing is best warm and fresh but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Reheat gently as desired.
Mash some potatoes, don’t forget to take out that bag of bits before you park it in the oven. All that’s left to do is douse that plum pudding that someone insisted on bringing in cognac and set it aflame. It’s Yuletide! If not now, when? Hohoho…