Best part of the holidays? Meals with your loved ones

Food

December 02, 2007|By SANDRA PINCKNEY

If you could create the perfect Christmas holiday, how would it look?

How would it smell? How would it taste? And would you smile every time you thought of it?

One of my favorite Christmases was spent several years ago at my daughter's little apartment in Philadelphia.

We lit some candles and started a fire in the fireplace, and feasted on roasted turkey breast, while sitting on pillows around her coffeetable, listen ing to Christmas music on the radio and sipping plum wine.

That night we slept on futons, talking and laughing into the night, our only light the embers from the fireplace.

We remember that simple, unplanned Christmas, with just the two of us, as one of the best ever.

Remember as you plan your holiday this year that it's not all the shiny, new stuff your loved ones will remember through the years. It's the love, the laughter and, of course, the food.

Whatever you decide to serve for Christmas dinner, make the meal the focus of the day.

Time spent around the dinner table with family and friends should be the highlight of the day - not all the stuff under the tree.

Take out all the good stuff: your pretty platters, dishes, glassware and linens. Use candles. Set the table the night before and get that chore out of the way.

The table will set the tone for your dinner, so give it some thought. Sometimes, your main course makes the best centerpiece. That's one reason I like to serve Brazilian Christmas Turkey.

While it does take a bit of time to prepare the turkey's marinade, which includes light rum, lime juice, garlic and spices, the payoff is worth the effort.

Not only will the marinade fill your house with tantalizing smells, it also will create a flavorful, tender, golden-brown bird.

If you read my column regularly, you know that I love gifts from the kitchen.

My recipe for made-from-scratch brownies is really special. To this one recipe you have the option of adding nuts, coconut and morsels of choco late, butterscotch or peanut butter.

A small tin or box of these brownies will make a most welcome gift for the chocolate lover on your list.

If you and your family are watching calories, you'll be glad to know my crumb-cake recipe is big on flavor and low on calories.

This cake is perfect to serve the family on Christmas morning, along with steaming mugs of mulled cider. Or place it in a pretty box and give it as a hostess gift.

unisun@baltimoresun.com

Brazilian Christmas Turkey

12 servings

One 12-pound turkey

MARINADE:

1/8 cup kosher salt

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon good-quality mustard

fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

juice of one fresh lime

2 cups light rum

1/2 cup good-quality vinegar

1 cup olive oil

2 cups water

2 bay leaves

2 medium onions, sliced

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 cup chopped parsley (make sure you wash carefully to remove all sand)

ROASTING INGREDIENTS:

salt

pepper

2 apples, quartered

2 onions, quartered

marinade

Wash and pat dry the turkey. Rub it inside and out with a paste made of the salt, garlic, mustard, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

Place turkey in a nonreactive pan or a roasting bag. Add lime juice, rum, vinegar, olive oil, water, bay leaves, sliced onions, scallions and parsley.

Cover pan or close bag and marinate turkey overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to roast the turkey, preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove turkey from the marinade (don't discard marinade) and pat dry with paper towels. Season the turkey with a little salt and pepper.

Stuff the cavity with apples and onions. Pour some of the marinade over the turkey.

Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and roast at 325 degrees, basting at regular intervals with the remaining marinade.

The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the thigh reads 185 degrees. This should take about 4 hours.

Remove the foil in the last 20 minutes to let the turkey turn a beautiful golden-brown.

Per serving: 621 calories, 32 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1,148 grams sodium, 257 grams cholesterol

Mulled Cider

Makes 8 cups

1/2 gallon apple cider

1 orange

15 cloves

four 3-inch sticks of cinnamon

15 allspice berries

1 teaspoon nutmeg

7 pods cardamom

1/4 cup brown sugar

bourbon, brandy or rum (optional)

Pour apple cider into a 3-quart saucepan, cover, turn on medium heat.

While cider is heating, take a vegetable peeler and peel some strips of the orange.

Press about half of the cloves into the peeled part of the orange.

Place orange, orange-peel strips, the remaining cloves and the rest of the ingredients, except the alcohol, into the saucepan with the cider.

Keep covered and heat the mulled-cider mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.

Remove from heat. Strain the cider. Serve in mugs, preferably glass.

Spike with a splash of bourbon, brandy or rum, if desired.

Made-From-Scratch Brownies

Makes 32 brownies

4 (1-ounce) unsweetened chocolate baking squares

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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