Every family has traditions beyond the basic holidays, I have found over the years. Some of my friends have celebrations for their various ethnic backgrounds. In New York there are celebrations for various patron saints in areas of the city with street fairs and parades. Texas has San Jacinto Day. All across the United States there are other celebrations we don't hear much about that are traditional within states and communities.
For example, in Michigan the day before Ash Wednesday is celebrated with jelly donuts of a sort called a paczki (pronounced "Poonch-key") which is an item found primarily in boxes at the local Polish bakeries in Detroit. When I lived in Michigan I was introduced to the holiday. The fillings weren't big on my list of favorites since prune and Bavarian Cream seem to be the ones I kept getting, not the raspberry or lemon. Then I heard the radio folks talk about how many calories were in a paczki and they fell right out of my diet. Anything without chocolate that tags upwards to 700 calories on average isn't high on my list. Especially when I kept getting the prune ones!
Moving back home to California meant that I was also going to be doing my family traditional holidays. The first nontraditional holiday for my family was Super Bowl Sunday. Most folks don't consider Super Bowl Sunday a holiday but my family has had a party annually more years than I can remember. Many televisions around the house and mom serves hot dogs and appetizers while we all yell at the commercials. I mean watch the game.
The next holiday celebrated in my family, other than nationally- recognized ones like Valentine's Day, is St. Patrick's Day. Most folks associate the holiday with leprechauns, beer and the Chicago River dyed green. My family has a sit down dinner with the good crystal and china and Irish foods.
Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes boiled in a pot generally were the core of my family's St. Patrick's Day dinners until my brothers married, and not everyone joining the family had grown up on such Irish meals. Over time enchiladas were added to the meal. I, for one, was ecstatic. I never much cared for boiled food -- even being half Irish. Mom claims I always ate it. I hadn't realized that I had a choice! I have no recipes for corned beef and cabbage since I don't eat it. Come St Patrick's Day you will find me eating enchiladas with soda bread and maybe having a glass of Irish coffee afterwards. 'Sláinte!' (pronounced 'slawn-cha', meaning Health! A common toast in Ireland, the equivalent to 'Cheers')
GRANDMOTHER SMITH'S IRISH SODA BREAD
- 5 cups flour
- 2/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 well-beaten egg
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup raisins
- In large mixing bowl sift the dry ingredients together. At this point you can add the raisins if they are plump otherwise add the raisins to the buttermilk to plump.
- Mix the melted butter with the wet ingredients and add slowly to the dry ingredients.
- Mix together knead in the bowl lightly and let stand for 15 minutes. Knead five to six times on lightly floured surface.
- Preheat the Iron Skillet in a 400 degree oven. Pat the dough into the skillet. Cut into the top a large criss-cross pattern. At this point you can egg-wash the surface for a crusty bread (egg wash is beaten egg with 2 tablespoons of water brushed across the top of the dough before baking).
- Bake the bread for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Lower temperature to 300 degrees and continue cooking for 30 more minutes. Lower the oven to 250 degrees to bake the last 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a cookie rack.
- Some people do not add raisins. Other family members add 1 to 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the dry ingredients. Most people fully cool before serving.
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 12 corn tortillas
- Enchilada Sauce (green or red chile sauce can be used) warm in saucepan (24 ounce can or 2 cups of sauce)
- Grated cheddar and jack cheese (from 4 to 5 cups depending on how much cheese you like)
- 1/2 cup diced onions (optional)
- 4 ounces diced green chiles (optional)
- small can sliced black olives (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350. Pour 1/2 cup sauce in 9x13 inch baking dish and spread on bottom. Fry tortillas in hot oil one at a time around five seconds a side. Dip tortillas in sauce and lay in 9x13 dish. Fill bottom of baking dish with flat coated tortillas. You will not be able to fry and dip all 12 tortillas and fill them first time round. Turn off the oil and work slowly to start. Oil should NOT be smoking. I test using a wooden chop stick. When the oil bubbles lightly around the wood it is ready.
Put cheese and other ingredient in middle of tortilla and fold over one side then the other placing seam side down in baking dish. Tuck each filled enchilada next to each other until dish is full. I end up putting two or three on the side of the main line of enchiladas.
When finished filling and folding all the tortillas pour any remaining sauce over top (it should not float them but make sure they don't get dry when baking -- if you have leftover serve with enchiladas or make Spanish rice with the sauce (add onions and bell peppers with sauce and cooked white rice and bake with enchiladas; serve with some diced tomatoes and green chiles on top). I sprinkle with remaining ingredients and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Serve with sour cream and minced onions garnish.
PREPARING FRESH GREEN CHILE
First take your green chiles (better wear rubber gloves) and slit pods lengthwise and remove seeds and veins. Place pods on a cookie sheet (I line cookie sheet with foil) under a broiler. Or place on your outdoor grill. Allow pods to blister well on each side. Turn frequently so they don't burn (tongs are handy for this). Remove from the fire and cover with damp towels for 10 to 15 minutes (use dish towel and toss in washer machine immediately to prevent chile burning hands later once rubber gloves removed). Then peel skin from stem downward. Chiles are then ready to use or to freeze for the future.
FRESH RED CHILE
Fresh red chilies may be prepared the same way.
GREEN CHILE SAUCE
- 1/4 cup salad or olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup diced green chile
- Salt to taste
Sauté garlic and onion in heavy saucepan. Blend in flour with wooded spoon. Add water and green chile. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
RED CHILE SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup chile powder
- 2 cups water
- Salt to taste
Sauté garlic in oil. Blend in flour with a wooden spoon. Add chile powder and blend in (Don't let pan get too hot -- chile will burn easily). Blend in water and cook to desired consistency. Add salt to taste.
- Sugar cubes
- Bushmills or Jamesons Whiskey
- Hot Coffee
- Whipping Cream or heavy cream
- Pour in one shot of Irish whiskey.
- Add three sugar cubes.
- Fill with strong black coffee to within one inch of top. Stir gently.
- Top off to the brim with heavy cream slightly aerated.
Important: Do not stir after adding cream, as the true flavor is obtained by drinking the coffee and whiskey through the cream. Served usually in glass goblets or large coffee mugs.