Feasting is a really great holiday tradition – the time and the luxury to work on really involved or rich dishes without feeling (too much) guilt. A few Christmases ago my family had a real treat when my foodie aunt and uncle visited with a tin of homemade truffles, a year-plus abroad in Italy, and The Berghoff Family Cookbook as accompaniments. We feasted, indeed, on Berghoff creamed spinach, penne with mascarpone and walnuts, beef Wellington, and a variety of other delicacies.

It’s shocking to think of it, but but it was more than ten years ago now when my parents hosted our extended family (including two dogs, an unheard-of circumstance in our house) for the holidays. It was, I think, the last Christmas I spent with my paternal grandparents. One of my uncles made some kind of crazy meat pies for Christmas brunch, and for either Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner my mom made boeuf bourguignon for the masses. I remember they slipped a little bit of the beefy wine sauce into one of the dog’s bowls, probably the best Christmas present she ever got.

In recent years my sister and I have taken to making brunch for the family on Christmas morning. While traveling around New Mexico in 2005 I purchased a cookbook for my mom as a souvenir  featuring recipes from the top B&Bs in the region, and it’s been quite a hit for brunch at home recipes. I can’t find a online reference since I don’t quite recall the title, but there’s a spicy egg casserole and a fruit smoothie that have been hits in our family. Another hit that I almost exclusive make at home are these pesto latkes, which are baked in a muffin tin rather than fried. I can use Mom’s food processor to shred a lot of potatoes, though I never quite get them dry and crispy enough.

One of the best things about leisurely holiday eating, for me, is the opportunities for nibbles before the meal. Without the rushing and hecticness* of typical meals, there’s time for a plate of little noms and if I’m really lucky perhaps a fancy cocktail. Traditionally this would be a sour drink of some kind, either whiskey (a Mom classic and Grandma favorite) or pisco. We’ve been really spoiled since my cousin opened his fabulous Chicago bar, The Whistler, a few years ago. As you can see from their cocktail menu**, they have an amazing array of cocktails, and occasionally he mixes up a batch of something new and different for family events.

With any luck, in 48 hours I’ll be greeted by a sight something like this:



* Not that holiday meals aren’t hectic; anybody who has seen my sister and I in the kitchen at the same time can tell you that.

** Pro tip: the picture from the Whistler Blog is from my proud aunt & uncle’s Hawaiian honeymoon!