A Chile-Blessed Christmas Around the World

Dave DeWitt Cooking with Chiles at the Holidays Leave a Comment

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By Nancy Gerlach, Fiery Foods & Barbecue Central Food Editor Emeritus

Editor’s Note: Nancy Gerlach and her husband Jeff retired a few years ago and now live in Yucatan, Mexico. The illustration at left is by Cyd Riley.

Recipes:

‘Tis the season to count our blessings and I’ve always counted the years I lived in New Mexico as a blessing. A big part of that is our wonderful chile and chile-based cuisine. At Christmas time there are so many tasty traditional chile dishes that are served here: posole, tamales, green chile stew, and red chile to name a few. But New Mexico is not the only place where the pungent pod plays a roll in holiday fare.  In many countries where Christmas is celebrated, chiles are an integral ingredient in traditional holiday foods.

Christmas is a truly a global celebration, spent with family, friends and great food. Traditions and  and foods may vary but chiles are a common thread.  So, heat up your holidays with my selections of chile-blessed Christmas meals.

Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
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Rating: 5
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This dish is traditionally served during the Christmas season in New Mexico, when a pot simmering at the back of the stove provides a welcoming fare for holiday well-wishers. I can't remember any holiday party or dinner that I've attended that this stew hasn't been served. At my house this is a staple on Christmas Eve. I always have a pot ready to warm my husband and I up after strolling Old Town and enjoying the luminarias. Similar to, yet different from the "pozole" served in Mexico, this popular dish is served as a soup, a main course, or a vegetable side dish. Posole, the processed corn, is the main ingredient of this dish of the same name. If posole corn is not available, you may substitute hominy--the taste won't be the same, but it will still be good.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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This dish is traditionally served during the Christmas season in New Mexico, when a pot simmering at the back of the stove provides a welcoming fare for holiday well-wishers. I can't remember any holiday party or dinner that I've attended that this stew hasn't been served. At my house this is a staple on Christmas Eve. I always have a pot ready to warm my husband and I up after strolling Old Town and enjoying the luminarias. Similar to, yet different from the "pozole" served in Mexico, this popular dish is served as a soup, a main course, or a vegetable side dish. Posole, the processed corn, is the main ingredient of this dish of the same name. If posole corn is not available, you may substitute hominy--the taste won't be the same, but it will still be good.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, cover the posole with water and soak overnight. Bring the water and posole to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  2. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, add the oil, and when hot, reduce the heat to medium, add the pork, and brown. Remove the pork when it is browned, and add it to the posole. Add the onions to the skillet, and fi needed, additional oil. Add the onions to the skillet, and if needed, additional oil. Saute the onions until they turn a golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to the pot with the posole.
  3. Add the broth to the pan, raise the heat, and deglaze the pan, being sure to scape all the bits and pieces from the sides and bottom. Pour the broth into the posole pot.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the stockpot, bring to just below boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the posole is tender and the meat is starting to fall apart. Add more broth or water if necessary.
  5. Place the chopped onions for the garnish in a sieve and rinse under cold water to remove the sharpness.
  6. Place all the garnishes in small serving bowls, ladle the stew into individual soup bowls, and serve accompanied by warm flour tortillas.
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gammon
Glazed Gammon (South African Glazed Ham)
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Christmas is celebrated in South Africa much the same way as in other countries except that for them it occurs in summer instead of winter. Families gather for a large Christmas feast with ham, in a variety of forms, as a very popular entree. The most popular is gammon, which is a Chinese type of cured ham that is uncooked and very salty. Since it is not readily available, probably Smithfield and Virginia hams are the closest we can come to a true gammon. If an uncooked ham is unavailable, you can alter the cooking time in this recipe and still have an elegant entree to grace any holiday table. After lunch, families then visit the homes of friends to exchange a “Christmas box” of food.
Servings
8-10 servings
Servings
8-10 servings
gammon
Glazed Gammon (South African Glazed Ham)
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Christmas is celebrated in South Africa much the same way as in other countries except that for them it occurs in summer instead of winter. Families gather for a large Christmas feast with ham, in a variety of forms, as a very popular entree. The most popular is gammon, which is a Chinese type of cured ham that is uncooked and very salty. Since it is not readily available, probably Smithfield and Virginia hams are the closest we can come to a true gammon. If an uncooked ham is unavailable, you can alter the cooking time in this recipe and still have an elegant entree to grace any holiday table. After lunch, families then visit the homes of friends to exchange a “Christmas box” of food.
Servings
8-10 servings
Servings
8-10 servings
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and liberally oil a large baking pan.
  2. Place the ham, fat side up, in the baking pan, and pour the broth over the top. Dust the ham with the ginger, mustard and chile, add the bay leaves and peppercorns and cover the roast with a lid or aluminum foil.
  3. Bake the ham for 3 to 4 hours, or until an internal thermometer reads 125 degrees F. Remove the meat from the oven and raise the heat to 400 degrees F.
  4. Remove the meat from the pan and pour off the liquid. Peel the outer layer of the skin off the fat of the ham, leaving a good layer of fat. Score the fat with a sharp knife to form a crisscross diamond pattern.
  5. Combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a bowl and stir to mix. Spoon the glaze over the ham and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F., basting often with the glaze.
  6. Remove the ham and place on a large serving platter. Garnish with the apricot halves using the cloves to anchor them in place, and serve.
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jamaican riced and peas
Jamaican Rice and Peas
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In Jamaica, Christmas carols are sung to a reggae beat and, in the small villages, Santa arrives riding in a cart pulled by a donkey, not a reindeer. A typical holiday feast would consist of curried goat, oxtails, and rice’n’ peas. Rice and peas (or beans) is a popular dish on many of the Caribbean islands. Maybe its popularity is due from the fact that rice helps tame the burn of chiles, although this version of the dish is not tame. The peas used are called pigeon peas and are about the size of garden peas and are available dried or in cans. Kidney, or red beans are also used in this dish, but during the Christmas season, only the gungo or pigeon are served in Jamaica.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
jamaican riced and peas
Jamaican Rice and Peas
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Rating: 0
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In Jamaica, Christmas carols are sung to a reggae beat and, in the small villages, Santa arrives riding in a cart pulled by a donkey, not a reindeer. A typical holiday feast would consist of curried goat, oxtails, and rice’n’ peas. Rice and peas (or beans) is a popular dish on many of the Caribbean islands. Maybe its popularity is due from the fact that rice helps tame the burn of chiles, although this version of the dish is not tame. The peas used are called pigeon peas and are about the size of garden peas and are available dried or in cans. Kidney, or red beans are also used in this dish, but during the Christmas season, only the gungo or pigeon are served in Jamaica.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. If using dried peas, place them in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until the peas are tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high, add the garlic, chile, and onion and saute until soft. Add the rice and continue to saute until the rice browns slightly. Stir the peas into the rice.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the coconut milk with 3 cups of the reserved bean liquid. (If you do not have enough bean liquid, add water to make up the difference.) Bring to a boil and add the rice mixture. Bring the liquid back to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Fluff the rice with a fork, stir in the green onions, and serve.
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linguine
Linguine con le Vongole (Linguine with Spicy Red Clam Sauce)
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La Vigilia di Natale, or Christmas Eve, is the most important holiday for many Italians. The meal served is a holiday feast with deep religious roots. Traditionally it has to be “di magro” or meatless, a custom which dates back to older church doctrine that limited the eating of meat on holy days. For those who follow the custom, the meal consists of fish or seafood and a number of side dishes. Depending on the availability, meals can have seven to thirteen seafood dishes, and in landlocked areas as few as three. Whatever the number, the number has religious significance. Linguine served with chile spiced clam sauce is a popular “il primo piatto” or the first course in a meal of many courses.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
linguine
Linguine con le Vongole (Linguine with Spicy Red Clam Sauce)
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La Vigilia di Natale, or Christmas Eve, is the most important holiday for many Italians. The meal served is a holiday feast with deep religious roots. Traditionally it has to be “di magro” or meatless, a custom which dates back to older church doctrine that limited the eating of meat on holy days. For those who follow the custom, the meal consists of fish or seafood and a number of side dishes. Depending on the availability, meals can have seven to thirteen seafood dishes, and in landlocked areas as few as three. Whatever the number, the number has religious significance. Linguine served with chile spiced clam sauce is a popular “il primo piatto” or the first course in a meal of many courses.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Ingredients
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. When hot add the onion and garlic and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the parsley, chile piquin, and anchovies and saute for an additional couple of minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, clam juice, and wine. Raise the heat and bring to a boil or over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Add the clams, cover and cook until the clams open, about 8 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open.
  3. Add the bread crumbs, basil, and butter and simmer for an additional minute. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
  4. Place the linguine in individual pasta bowls, top with the clams and serve.
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barramundi
Marinated Barramundi on the Barbie with Spicy Sauce
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Rating: 5
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Christmas Down Under falls in the middle of summer and is often celebrated on the beach with the holiday feast cooked on the “barbie.” Prawns, steaks, chicken, and lobster, as well as fish, are all popular entree choices to be cooked on the grill. Barramundi is a white-fleshed fish popular in Australia but seldom found outside the country, but other fish such as cod or swordfish can be substituted.
Servings
4 servings
Servings
4 servings
barramundi
Marinated Barramundi on the Barbie with Spicy Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Christmas Down Under falls in the middle of summer and is often celebrated on the beach with the holiday feast cooked on the “barbie.” Prawns, steaks, chicken, and lobster, as well as fish, are all popular entree choices to be cooked on the grill. Barramundi is a white-fleshed fish popular in Australia but seldom found outside the country, but other fish such as cod or swordfish can be substituted.
Servings
4 servings
Servings
4 servings
Ingredients
Marinade
Barbie Sauce
Servings: servings
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the fish in a non-reactive pan and cover with the marinade. Marinate the fish for an hour, turning frequently.
  2. To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Place the sauce in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Adjust the seasonings.
  3. Remove the fish from the marinade and grill over a medium-hot grill, basting frequently with the marinade.
  4. Serve the fish with the sauce on the side.
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