by The Grape's Professional Food Critic
We’re coming upon the most wonderful time of year, time to decorate the tree, kiss under the mistletoe, write heartfelt letters to Santa, make the yuletide gay, dash through the snow, jingle your bells, kindly ask Rudolph to guide your sleigh, etc. Whether you’re going home, meeting a significant other’s entire extended family for the first time all at once, or just hanging out with some friends, this year is definitely a year to get your housewife on and wow everyone at the dinner table. I could think of no better place to turn than my roommate’s novelty 1970s recipe cards (bought at a yard sale right here in Oberlin!), filled with hair-raising recipes that will leave your boyfriend’s Aunt Carol begging you to dump him and become her live-in chef. I’m not talking about the average pie or the tired, dry casserole. This isn’t just adding a few fresh-baked gingerbread men along with the store-bought variety or cooking an impossible roast, these recipes will literally knock everyone’s socks off and quite possibly give your diabetic uncle a third heart attack. I’ve taken it upon myself to place the dishes into handy little categories, giving each a ranking of 1 to 5 stars, just to make life a little easier for our dear readers. Feel free to add as many grapes as you want to these recipes, we won’t judge… Bon appetit!
(Recipes are from McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection)
On-the-go dishes (for if you have to spend the holidays in transit):
Picnic on a Stick
Ingredients for Sandwich Kebabs:
6 (1-inch) chunks dill pickle
6 (1-inch) cheese cubes
12 slices salami or bologna
6 cherry tomatoes
6 slices boiled ham
6 hot dog rolls
Ingredients for Fruit Kebabs:
6 (1-inch) chunks cantaloupe or banana
12 canned pineapple chunks
12 maraschino cherries
6 (1-inch) chunks watermelon
To make sandwich kebabs: string 1 pickle chunk, 1 cheese cube, 2 slices salami, 1 cherry tomato, and 1 slice of ham onto each stick
With a spatula, spread one side of a hot dog roll with butter and the other with mustard
Place sandwich kebabs on rolls
To make fruit kebabs: string 1 cantaloupe chunk, 2 pineapple chunks, 2 cherries, and 1 melon chunk onto each stick
I’ll grant this recipe a whole 3 out of 5 stars! You get 3 food groups on the one stick, and that’s something you don’t see every day. I’m also obsessed with everything being cut into a “chunk.” That’s such a vague size, it really gives our readers the creative license I think they’re looking for in a recipe. If you really wanna have fun, you can make a little picnic basket, a little picnic blanket–put those all on sticks too. Put your whole family on sticks, all your friends too. Sticks should be involved in food more often.
For if you’ve ever made a salad and thought, “hmm. Something’s missing, and it’s gelatin”:
Molded Shrimp Salad
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups yogurt
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
2 lb shelled deveined shrimp, cooked
½ cup chopped celery
Sprinkle gelatin over 1 ½ cups cold water and let soften. Bring to a boil and stir until dissolved.
Set in a bowl of ice cubes for 15 minutes.
Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon juice, onion, salt, and tarragon to the gelatin and stir.
Cut shrimp into ¼ -inch pieces and add chopped shrimp and celery. Place into molds.
Refrigerate for 6 hours.
Run a spatula along the edge of the mold and place a warm cloth over the top of the mold. Shake onto a tray. Garnish with fresh lettuce and remaining whole shrimps.
5 stars out of 5. Why would anyone ever choose to have turkey when you could have this? This meal is perfect for anyone who has ever had a really hard time chewing shrimp, because now it's in a mush with mayonnaise. A cold, gelatinous mush. The combo of dairy and seafood are also sure to make all your relatives opt for an early night in, no awkward conversations about your sexuality with your cousins who rushed for a Christian sorority this year!
Cocktails, for if you wanna get crunk with Grandma:
1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, packed
½ bay leaf
1 cup boiling water
1 ½ cups dry white wine
4 cups sugar
1 bottle liquid fruit pectin
1 drop green food coloring
5 fresh tarragon sprigs
Wash and dry tarragon leaves; chop finely. Put into a small bowl with the bay leaf. Add boiling water. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine tarragon mixture, wine, and sugar. Heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and stir in liquid pectin. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add food coloring.
Pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth and suspended over a bowl.
Place a sprig of tarragon in the bottom of each of 5 glasses. Pour hot jelly into glasses.
Let the jelly stand for 10 minutes, then cover and store in the refrigerator.
4 out of 5, this sounds like something fresh out of a liquor treat recipe book. Could be fun to mix it up with the food coloring; what if it was orange? Purple? Rainbow? Also, why stop at white wine? Pull out that bottle of Bacardi you’ve been saving for a rainy day and watch family secrets unfold before your own two eyes…