It’s never to early to plan for Christmas dinner, in my opinion. (Well, as long as it’s already December, I mean.) Having just waded through massive piles of great provender a few days ago, it may be hard for some of you to set your sights on the next Big Meal. Well, we here at the Chile Underground are sending you a message: Get to thinking about it, at least! Oh, you don’t need to start cooking yet. (Unless you’re making fruitcake or something.) It may even be a bit early to collect up all the fixin’s, especially the fresh stuff. However, a great meal can always use a great plan…
Here are some ways you can include Texas in your feast:
Tamales. It’s a big Christmas tradition down here, one we learned from our neighbors to the south. Like anything good, though, once we Texans learn about it, we adopt it with gusto. (Like football, or Longhorns on your Cadillac, or armadillo racing.) Tamales can make a meal all by themselves, as long as you’ve got some good chili gravy to put over them. But as a side dish, they’re even some more awesomer. (If you can say that with a straight face, you could apply for a visa to come on down. If you don’t see anything wrong with that term, then you were born here.) Why are they great? Lard; many types of fillings; corn. Here’s one of the best things about tamales at Christmas: You can get a whole lot of them and freeze the extras. They’re good for months!
Barbeque. Yep, what Christmas dinner is complete without barbeque? In Texas we prefer brisket, slow-smoked and tender. We’re often in a charitable mood this time of year, though, and we’ll take almost anything from the BBQ family that shows up on the table: ribs, sausage, turkey, whatever. Just don’t leave it out, okay?
Chili. That’s right, why leave out the greatest contribution to civilization that Texas has produced? (Sorry; the Bush dynasty is second on the list.)
Special Sides. Forget the usual stuff, like green bean casserole. (If you got it, bring it, though. We hate to see that go to waste.) Dried cherry and apple dressing is a good one. Sweet taters with plenty of marshmellers on top and pecans in the middle. Pinto beans, of course. Green chile corn pudding is nice too. While we’re talking zesty, why not cook a mac and cheese with some roasted chiles in? Okay, you had that at Thanksgiving; it’s been a whole month! Live a little.
Great Desserts. Pecan pie, of course, although in a pinch we’ll follow that with some pumpkin pie, just to show we’re not playing favorites. (We Texans are nothing if not fair.) Spice cake is high on the list. And if we’re pushed into it, we’ll have some banana pudding, just to be sociable. (We’re very sociable too.) Christmas pudding candy (from the 1850s) is an easy-to-make recipe that makes sure you don’t leave the table a tad short on sugar. It’s got fruitcake beat all sideways and soft, as we say. If times are tough at your house, fear not: there’s always cornmeal pie, cheap and easy.
Tuna. No, not the fish; the town. One of the best things to put on the DVD or VCR is “A Tuna Christmas,” the wonderful and uplifting story of how the Fat Man brings happiness to Tuna, Texas, everybody’s favorite third-smallest town in the State. (And if you have to ask “Which State?” then stick with Miracle on 34th, okay?)
Whatever way you go with your Christmas dinner, remember to practice safe feasting. Never eat anything bigger than your head…
Enjoy the (Feast Planning) Heat!