Let me tell you about the Maisano family. My mom is from a Sicilian family of eleven, with nine kids across eighteen years. Nearly all of them had their own children, and now many of those children have their own families, and we even have a fourth generation beginning. It’s sprawling and wild with more than our fair share of crazy, and I cannot believe my luck in counting myself a part of it.
The whole family gets together once a year, the Sunday after Christmas, for an enormous feast. This year was the twentieth anniversary of the get-together, a testament to our family’s love with only a couple oven fires along the way.
My cousins Ron & Dale are the masterminds and they take turns hosting; their better halves, Kim & Deb, are absolute saints as we throw their entire homes into disarray. My cousin Jody & I show up a couple days early to start cooking.
Every year has a different theme: a certain cuisine, an area of the world, an event. This year’s theme was Irish, which featured more familiar flavors than other years that have been a little more out there. The full menu:
- Rocket, Roasted Beets, & Rocket Salad
- Bibb, Bacon, & Roasted Apple Salad with Camembert Dressing
- Two Cheese Potato & Cauliflower Soup
- Parsnip & Apple Soup
- Irish Stout Chicken
- Shepard’s Pie, both beef and lamb
- Seafood Mornay
- Roasted Garlic & Stout Mac and Cheese
- Green Tomato Tarte Tatin
- Potato Cakes with Brussels Sprouts
- Braised Leeks
- Molded Shortbread
Every recipe is doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled to feed the entire family – you can see why it takes all weekend to prepare! Nearly all of these recipes came from The Irish Pub Cookbook and the Irish Cooking Bible.
Of course, the meal is always paired with traditional drinks. Irish wines & whiskeys were poured generously, although a few Italian wines always sneak their way in as well.
Not pictured because I drank it all: homemade Irish cream. Each family took home a jar to celebrate the twentieth year of the dinner, and I could drink it all day if it wouldn’t leave me on the floor.
After we’ve eaten all afternoon, pushing through another plate or one more bowl of soup… out come the pies. My aunt delivers half a dozen or more every year, and it simply isn’t Christmas without them. All the classics like apple and cherry are there, as well as my personal favorites: raspberry and a stunning chocolate this year.
This year was also a particularly special celebration: a fiftieth wedding anniversary for another aunt & uncle! Sugar, sugar, sugar all around.
Of course, the very best part is seeing all of the family we miss throughout the year. Living in Colorado is wonderful but it can be a challenge with my family in Pennsylvania and Kirk’s family in Missouri.
Hugging all the aunts, uncles, first cousins, second cousins, cousins once removed, people we’re vaguely related to somehow – and meeting the newest addition to the Maisano clan with her chocolate-covered-chin – makes every delayed flight and traffic jam absolutely worth the travel.
I hope you’ve all had the happiest of holidays with the people you love!
I’m sharing my favorite recipe from this year’s dinner, which was a shocker because I’ve never really liked beets. But beets with fried goat cheese, drizzled with a tangy vinaigrette? Oh yes.
To be perfectly honest, this is one of the more complicated salad recipes I’ve ever bothered to make. But it could easily be a main course on its own and it is so elegant and delicious that I promise it will be worth your time! This comes from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook.
Rocket, Roasted Beets, & Goat Cheese Salad
- 2 lb. small beets
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 t. salt
- 1 t. black pepper
- 1 T. whole-grain mustard
- 1 T. dijon
- 1 t. honey
- 2 T. white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 t. lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
- 11 oz. goat cheese
- 1 cup walnuts ground
- 1 cup panko
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 T. water
- canola oil
- 1 large bunch rocket or arugula
- 2/3 cup walnuts toasted
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Place beets in a baking dish, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
- Cover with foil and roast for an hour until tender.
- While beets are roasting, whisk together mustards, honey, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper.
- When the beets are done, rub the skins off and slice thinly. Toss with a couple tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
- Shape the log of goat cheese into 1/2-inch slices.
- Combine ground walnuts and panko in one small bowl and egg yolks and water in another small dish.
- Dip cheese slices in egg wash, then coat thoroughly in bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Heat an inch of oil in a large skillet or wok until very hot. Cook the cheese in batches about 1 minute on each side, until crispy and golden brown.
- Divide the rocket among 4 plates. Top each with roasted beets and cheese slices. Drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with walnuts.
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