The Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crècheat the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Typically, Italians have a big celebration on the Eve rather than Christmas day. It used to be a fast day, so no meat but lots of seafood and we still keep that tradition. We’d generally have dinner at our place (we have a big dining table) for 15 people. But this year because of COVID 19 and social distancing it will just be a few of us and Skype. We won’t cook as much food, but we’ll still have a variety of seafood and deserts to share with our neighbors.
My Christmas Punch is adapted from Duffy’s 1956 edition of the Official Mixers Guide
Mix and chill first 5 ingredients and strain into a punch bowl over a block of ice with citrus fruit slices frozen inside.* Add chilled wine and chilled club soda just before serving.
If you chill the punch with ice cubes, they’ll melt and dilute it. It’s better to use a large chunk of ice. It’s more interesting if you add some fruit and make it colorful.
Slice various citrus fruits. Place a few slices of each in a small (sandwich size) zip-lock bag. Add enough water to cover the slices and hold them together when frozen. Make about 4 or 5 bags and freeze them. When frozen, place the contents of each bag into a larger zip-lock bag or a Tupperware container, add more water and freeze to make a large block of ice and citrus slices – a fruitberg.
I have some sad news. DeRobertis Pasticceria is closing. They’ve been on First Ave. between Tenth and Eleventh Streets in Manhattan since 1904. And I’ve been going there since, well, I remember tagging along with my father on Sunday mornings to get pastry for after dinner – biscotti, cannoli, babas and sfogliatelle to go with our Anisette and black coffee. At Easter their pizza con gran couldn’t be beat and at Christmas they had the best struffoli.
The owner said the “new” local people expect his pasticceria to be more like Starbucks. (See Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York) Too bad they don’t know what it is that they have. And that it will be gone soon.
December is coming so here’s Nicki’s recipe for a Christmas standard.
“Struffoli or as my family calls them, Ceci, are made for the Christmas Holidays. Time consuming to make, but well worth it. They are a delicious treat. They are especially good for breakfast on Christmas day; float them in your coffee cup and scoop them up with a spoon. So good!” – Nicki
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, the 1/4 cup of Crisco and eggs in a mixing bowl. Work the dough with your hands. Then turn the dough onto a floured board. Knead the dough until pliable. Form it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Flour the board. Cut the dough into ½ inch strips. Roll the strips into rope-like pieces about 8 – 10 inches long. I prefer rolling the dough in my hands but you can roll it on the board. Leave each roll to rest on the floured board as you roll the others. Cut each roll into ½ inch pieces. Roll each of these pieces into balls the size of a ceci (chick pea). I roll them by hand and can do two at a time. (Practice makes perfect). The board should be sufficiently floured so that the Struffoli do not stick together.
Put the Crisco (about four inches deep) in a large heavy-duty pot over medium heat. Drop in one ceci to check the heat of the Crisco. It should brown in a minute or two. Fry the dough in batches until golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon or a spider spoon and drain them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Heat the honey and water in a pan until it blends. Add the ceci and toss and coat. Arrange in a serving bowl and dust with powdered sugar and sprinkles.