I’m all for tradition and I understand its value and importance. Like lots of you, I feel the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without observing certain food customs.
I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t pickled herring on the relish tray, and I’ve enjoyed a glass of eggnog since I was young.
But as different friends and partners came into my holiday mix, I discovered it’s nice to feel a meal can be fluid and that creating new traditions are welcome. I also learned that even though you make the same casserole each and every year, no one actually eats or likes it.
For much of my life the holidays had a comfortable sameness about it that I loved – a smorgasbord of cookies, cheeses, crackers and dip on Christmas Eve; and ham, brandied sweet potatoes and wild rice casserole filled the table for Christmas dinner.
Once the kids were grown and moved away, the sameness went out the window. But happily, a widening variety of options became available.
Non-traditional traditions have included replacing the ham with the likes of herb-stuffed pork loin, turducken and flank steak with dressing.
Two years ago we decided to take a slightly different twist. Wouldn’t it be fun to do a themed meal based on ethnic food? We chose Italian that year and everything from the meal to appetizers to drinks and dessert were included.
The food was so wonderful we made it again last year.
This year we’ve chosen German. My research began as I remembered this recipe for pork roast given to me by my friend Robyn Payant.
Pork loin becomes tender and delicious when cooked slowly with vegetables, caraway seeds and beer. The traditional roast is served with homemade gravy, red cabbage and potato dumplings.
This nontraditional Christmas dinner has truly become my absolute favorite part of Christmas.
So whether you’re planning to spend the holiday over a candlelit dinner or curled up on the couch with finger foods, don’t be afraid to try something new this season.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
German Roast Pork
4-6 pounds pork loin or shoulder
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1 cup water, stock, white wine or full bodied beer
2-3 tablespoons flour for gravy/sauce
2-3 tablespoons butter for gravy/sauce
Rub the entire pork with caraway, salt, pepper and oil, and then marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Before roasting let the meat come to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator at least 30 to 60 minutes before placing it in the oven.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the onions, celery and carrots and place in the bottom of a roasting pan just large enough to comfortably fit the roast. Pour the water, stock, white wine or beer into the pan. Place the roast – fat side down – in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables. Cover the pan with foil, place in the oven and roast for 1 hour.
Remove the foil from the pan and turn the roast fat side up. Cut deep crosses in the fat in a diamond pattern and place the roast, uncovered, back in the oven. Roast for another 30 to 90 minutes or until the roast is tender and well browned on the outside. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast should read 165 degrees.
Remove the roast to a cutting board, cover it lightly with foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes while you make the gravy. Knead the flour and butter together with your fingers to make a doughy paste and set aside in a small bowl. Strain the pan juices from the roasting pan and save the vegetables if you like to serve them with the roast. Add enough water, stock, wine or beer to the pan juices to make 2 cups.
Bring the pan juices to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk small pieces of the butter-flour paste into the pan juices until the gravy is thickened to your liking. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Slice the roast thinly and serve with the pan gravy on the side.