The Maine House prepares....for our Christmas Holiday Festivity! We share our holiday spirit with family and friends. Tis' the season of Reveillon! In France and some other French-speaking places, a réveillon is a long dinner, and possibly party, held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning "waking"), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond. In Portuguese-speaking countries, it is also a designation for the party preceding the New Year's Day.
Reveillon originally was a meal served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Early New Orleans was almost entirely Catholic, and virtually the entire community would participate in these ceremonies. Families would return from the late-night service famished and set upon a feast prepared in advance and laid out on the table or sideboard. A typical early reveillon menu looked very much like breakfast, with egg dishes, breads and puddings, but could also include turtle soup, oysters and grillades of veal. Naturally, the Creoles accompanied these rich repasts with wines, cordials and other fortified drinks. The dinners could last for many hours, and by some accounts even until dawn.
Through the 19th century, American holiday conventions like Christmas trees, gifts for children and shopping frenzies began gradually to establish themselves in New Orleans and supplant many of the Creole traditions. By the turn of the century, reveillon dinners could be found only in traditional homes, and by the 1940s the custom was all but extinct. Today, the tradition has been revived and many New Orleans restaurants participate in this celebration. The format of the reveillon dinner may be different from the early Creole days, but the resultant feelings of togetherness and holiday cheer is much the same.
The Maine House Reveillon Menu: Cajun Fried Turkey, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Andouille-Cheese Grits with Crawfish Gravy, Maple and Bacon Roasted Brussel Sprouts and White Chocolate Bread Pudding.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup solid frozen vegetable shortening
2 cups roasted, mashed, and cooled sweet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream (plus more if needed)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and allspice. Add the shortening and cut in with 2 knives or hands until crumbly. In another bowl combine sweet potatoes, cream and pecans. Make well in dry ingredients and add potato-cream mixture. Mix to combine. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut out with a 2-inch floured biscuit cutter. Place biscuits 1-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn down temperature to 375 and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack until room temperature.
* Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
* Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
*If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
*As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.
*Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it.
*Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
*If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.
* Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert?
* Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.
*One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.