Abigail Bassett is a Senior Producer with CNNMoney.com. She lives in New York with her husband and two very helpful dogs who clean up all her cooking messes. This is her first in a two-part series as Abigail tackles her first joint family Christmas dinner.
"And the lion shall lay down with the lamb..." - or in my case, the foodies shall cook for the conventional foodies, and none shall order pizza.
I've got a confession to make: I've been dreading Christmas since Thanksgiving. Well actually, Christmas dinner to be exact.
I know, I know, bah-freaking-humbug - but hosting my first combined family holiday has sent me rummaging through cabinets and family recipes for days. Upending plans for a mellow holiday and sending me (and my poor husband) into a tizzy.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all about family holidays and tradition. In fact, I really like my family’s Christmas tradition: A big turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and stuffing is like a dream Thanksgiving do-over. My husband’s Italian family however, does things very differently - and that’s where the issue arises.
The best example I can give you is an average dinner at our respective houses. My husband and I cook at home pretty regularly and we try cuisines from all over the world. An average night for us consists of made-from-scratch pork tamales or homemade date, habanero and goat cheese pizza. Whereas my in-laws prefer their local pizzeria, a quick bite from McDonald's or food from the local Chinese restaurant. While my Italian in-laws are all great cooks in their own right (I can’t touch my mother-in-laws fettuccine alfredo or her meatballs and “gravy”– aka sauce), they gravitate towards "the quicker, the better” food realm.
Since our marriage almost four years ago, my husband (and his friends) have reaped the rewards of my penchant for the personally made. This year, as a result of the years of decent cooking, he has chivalrously volunteered me for Christmas dinner duty.
So here I am at my kitchen table, trying to figure out how to bring these two holiday traditions together. My in-laws love Butterball; I’m an organic turkey kinda gal. My mother-in-law suggested Pillsbury Crescent Rolls; my husband wrinkled his nose and said,“Can’t you make the ones your sister makes from scratch?”
How in the world do you combine homemade spiked cranberry relish with broccoli casserole topped with saltines? Does tomato and mozzarella salad really go with sausage stuffing? Oh, and I’ve decided to try an old and very complicated family recipe, with a little help from Julia Child, for bûche de Noël - which has affectionately become known as the "Cow Pie” in my family because, well, it can potentially end up looking just like one.
So far I’ve got an organic, free-range turkey with homemade stuffing and gravy, my mother’s spiked cranberry relish, mashed potatoes with truffle oil (in the hopes that my father-in-law will like it), homemade corn muffins (croissants from scratch in a house with only one oven, ain’t happening), a HoneyBaked Ham (yes, from HoneyBaked.com in an effort at compromise) and my coup de grâce (fingers crossed), the bûche de Noël.
My in-laws are bringing various store-bought appetizers and Italian bakery desserts: the broccoli casserole, an apple pie from a local deli (that makes the hands down best apple pie, ever) and my mother-in-law and I are making her family’s fettuccine alfredo from scratch.
So, this is my Christmas Challenge: Can I successfully get my in-laws to bite into my foodie tendencies without making them wish for a Butterball (or having to order pizza)?
Come back on Monday to see if Abigail was successful in her Christmas Challenge. In the meantime, if you have any defensive strategies, share them in the comments. After all, it is the season of giving.