With so many people and Dorks celebrating Christmas in one form or another around the world, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some traditional Christmas foods (and maybe how they can be cooked sous vide, because of course). In many cultures, Christmas is more than just one day of present giving and worshipping. It almost always involves family, fun and great food traditions. Here are but twelve examples that we have found that represent global traditions.
Imbuljuta Tal-Qastan – This delicious holiday drink from Malta melds chestnuts and hot chocolate. What’s not to love? Traditionally, it takes a day or two to make simply because of having to soak the chestnuts over night in order to remove the shell pieces and lining. Then, the chestnuts are boiled in water with sugar, cocoa, and tangerine rind until the nuts are tender and the drink is piping hot. This usually takes a few hours as well. An enterprising Dork might try this sous vide by adding all the ingredients (including the cleaned chestnuts) into a vacuum bag, setting the water bath to about 160˚ F and letting it soak for about 15 hours. This will take longer than the original recipe, but just imagine the intensity of flavor using this sous vide setup would pack into a cupful of this Holiday delight?
Avgolemono Soup – A delicious tangy chicken soup that is a holiday favorite in Greece. This soup can be made quickly or slowly, depending on the depth of flavor and ingredients you choose. The main ingredients include chicken, lemon juice, eggs, and rice or orzo. For the sous vide twist, we recommend setting your water bath to 150˚ F and soaking your chicken with olive oil, chicken broth, flavor veggies, salt and pepper for about 5-6 hours. Remove the chicken from the vacuum and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid and use in a pot for the soup. Shred the chicken and add it and mostly cooked rice or orzo to the soup liquid. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice. Here is where the tricky part comes in. You must temper the eggs so you don’t end up with egg drop soup. Slowly whisk in the egg mixture into your soup and heat, but do not allow to boil. The extra effort is worth it for this smooth holiday treat.
Doro Wat – A staple in Ethiopia, this dish is also a holiday must. In essence, it is a savory chicken stew eaten traditionally with injera bread. Since this is a stew and it is a long cook to begin with, sous vide techniques are not a big stretch. Caramelized onions, kibbeh spiced butter, cubed chicken thighs, salt, lemon juice, spices, wine and honey go into a vacuum bag for about 5 hours at 150˚ F. Hard-boiled eggs get added about half an hour before serving. This dish serves up deep flavors of Africa for Christmas dinner.
Akoho Sy Voanio – This Christmas dish hails from Madagascar and other parts of Africa. It is a coconut chicken soup usually served over rice. This is a relatively easy recipe that involves combining coconut milk, chicken, onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper into a delicious soup. This can be done with sous vide methods with a water bath soak for about 3 to 4 hours at 148˚ F. The coconut flavors mix with the ginger and garlic to elevate this beautiful chicken soup, which would be perfect for a cold winter’s night.
Bibingka – A rice flour coconut cake from the Philippines starts us off in Asia. This traditional cake brings the flavors of the islands into a traditional Christmas meal. While baking with sous vide is generally not done, this treat was too good to pass up for the folks at Sous Vide Supreme who have an excellent step-by-step recipe for this holiday favorite.
Fried Chicken – In Japan, Christmas is traditionally celebrated with fried chicken, because why not? Often times, in Japan this traditional meal is made by a certain fast food chain hailing from Kentucky. But, why buy that when you can make it yourself and it tastes so much better? Obviously, one cannot deep fry in a sous vide set up. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t sous vide your chicken with some spices beforehand at around 140˚ F for 2 to 3 hours to really bring out the flavor before breading and dunking those bad boys in some hot oil.
Ciorba de perisoare – This Romanian meatball and veggie soup is a Christmas tradition and a delicious meal to warm you up when it is cold outside. The basics of this dish are meatballs of your choice of meat, broth, onions and other veggies like cabbage celery and carrots. This soup also makes good use of lemon juice. In order to sous vide this dish, we would recommend a cook time that agrees with whichever meat you chose. This means longer cook times for beef and pork and shorter ones for chicken or other poultry. Because they are meatballs and not cuts of meat, the cook times won’t be that terribly long – maybe somewhere between 2 to 3 hours. The water bath temperature should also be adjusted for the meat being cooked. Using sous vide methods will bring out the flavors of the meatballs while marrying beautifully with the vegetables and broth.
Pavo Trufado de Navidad – A stuffed turkey dish with a twist from Spain, this delicacy includes the tasty poultry stuffed with truffles. Yup! Those delicious and often expensive fungi that fancy restaurants shave over everything get stuffed in turkey for Christmas dinner in Spain and it is amazing. In order to make this Dorky, one could sous vide the turkey with spices and a bit of truffle ahead of time before taking it out, rolling the truffle stuffing inside and baking until golden and delicious. This would elevate not only the turkey flavors but infuse everything with even more truffle goodness.
Vitel Toné – This dish hails from Argentina but was heavily influenced by the Italian immigrants who moved there and brought with them Christmas traditions. Veal, tuna and capers combine and in unlikely but remarkably tasty dish that mixes the flavors of Argentina and traditions of Italy. To really get the tastes of this meal, we suggest browning the veal before giving it a soak in a sous vide water bath until it reaches a core temperature of 131˚ F. Once that is done, add the tuna sauce made with eggs or mayonnaise (depending on the amount of oil you prefer) and vegetables to your veal and top with capers. Simple, delicious and perfectly mixing of cultures and traditions for Christmas.
Hallacas – Venezeula’s answer to tamales and oh so delicious, this Christmas treat combines corn dough and vegetable and meat stew. The meat stew can be made ahead of time and of course we recommend sous vide for the best flavor possible. Then you make your corn dough, flatten balls of it on oiled plantain leaves, spread some of your stew on that, fold it up and tie with twine. It then gets boiled for about twenty minutes. This hearty meal is perfect for Christmas.
Chiles en Nogada – This beautiful dish comes from Mexico and looks like a Christmas card. It involves a poblano pepper stuffed with your choice of meat, covered in a walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds. Cook your stuffing with herbs and spices ahead using sous vide methods with temperatures based on whichever meat you choose. Then stuff your pepper and bake. Top with the signature walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and green herbs to have a festive Mexican Christmas dish.
Christmas Ham – Let’s finish our tour of the world in the USA where many enjoy ham on Christmas. Usually these are coated with a sugary crust or syrup, bringing out the natural sweetness of the pork. While sous vide-ing an entire ham may be a bit daunting, one can get smaller cuts to soak in a water bath for hours with oils and spices. Once it is done in the bath, a sugary crust can be applied and the ham put in the oven to crisp. Delicious and traditional for many celebrating this time of year.