The true spirit of the holidays is often forgotten at times in the over-commercialization and consumerism of the moment, and we are all guilty of getting caught up in the whirlwind of store sales. Let’s take a step back and remember what it is all about—family.
Before the sarcasm and cynicism of adolescence turned Christmas into a purely materialistic endeavor, it was indeed a magical time. The holidays for me conjures up memories of my nana and papa traveling from Queens to stay with us; my sister and me laying in the threshold of our bedroom doors whispering across the hallway of Santa’s pending arrival and gifts to come; and the aromas of Christmas dinner engulfing the house.
Ahh, Christmas dinner. My favorite meal of the year. After the gifts were ripped open and the toys strewn about, there was one thing I could always count on—great food. There was the standing rib roast, the mashed potatoes, and the wine that I was allowed to sip on occasion. Spending time in the kitchen with my nana and mother watching them make these holiday classics is why I’m so obsessed with food and wine. And I thank them for that.
After dinner, I would lay awake in bed listening to adult laughter and glasses clinking. What were they doing? I would sneak down for look. They were playing cards, drinking wine and libation, and because it was the early 1970’s, cigarette and cigar smoke filled the air.
These are my humble childhood memories of Christmas, when life was uncomplicated and the simple goodness of spending time with family and enjoying a meal prepared by loved ones was the most anticipated event of the year.
So my message to everyone is try not to rush so much, sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, and think about your childhood memories. That’s the true gift of the holidays.
Chef Dave Repp, of Splash Restaurant in Westport, and I were talking about this sentiment, he fondly recalled his grandmother and her great recipes that helped shape and influence his cooking obsession at a young age. So we thought that paying homage with the following original classic recipe from his grandmother’s recipe vault seemed like the most appropriate way to thank her.
I know you all want to gaze over at the recipe, but keep your eyes here for one more paragraph or you will miss the wine pairing. It’s all about the Cava, baby! Spain’s super sparkler. Do not let this wine slip past your palate. Almost always affordable, especially at my store you need to pair Cava with the Chef Repp’s recipe. Crisp and clean, it will refresh your palate with every lush sip.
Stop on by my wine store to taste some Cava this Friday and Saturday from noon-8pm. Don’t forget to check out my website www.offthevineonline.com for all of our wine and food columns.
This week’s suggestions:
Conde de Subirats Brut, Cava, Spain $14.99
Vega Barcelona Brut Reserva, Cava, Spain $15.99
CRAB STUFFED MAINE LOBSTER
Due to a combination of supply and demand and lower fuel costs, you can actually afford to eat lobster! My seafood guys at Fish Tales in New Canaan say the price should stay low for a while. This is a variation of my grandmother’s baked stuffed lobster recipe. My grandmother, like all great cooks, used the philosophy “keep it simple, keep it fresh,” so make sure you purchase your lobsters from a reputable source like Fish Tales.
2 1½ Lbs lobsters
Basting /Dipping sauce
8 Tbls melted butter
2 Tbls lemon juice
6 drops of tobasco
For the stuffing
2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
½ cup diced red pepper
½ cup diced yellow onion
2 Tbls chopped Italian parsley
5 Tbls butter
Juice of ½ lemon
1tbls minced garlic
1 cup cooked crab meat
Pinch of dried oregano
1 Tbls Worcestershire sauce
1Tbls Spanish paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the lobsters on their backs and split them down the middle. Pry them open as wide as possible and remove the head sack and intestine. Remove the claws and place both lobsters and claws on a sheet pan and set a side
On medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the peppers , onions, and garlic
In a mixing bowl , lightly mix all the stuffing ingredients together until the butter is mixed through, and
season to taste.
Baste the lobster meat with the butter mixture and season with salt and pepper
Lightly place the stuffing in the lobsters being careful not to compact it too much
Place the claws at the end of the tales to keep them from curling up while cooking, and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes
Crack the claws to let out the water and remove to a serving plate with the lobsters
Serve with the butter mixture for dipping and lemon
Happy Holiday’s from Off the Vine!