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Chuck Dressler offered many great recipes his 2011 Talk of the Table column, ending all his articles with his trademark “As always, enjoy the cookin’ and then the eatin’!”

December 2011

Chuck Dressler writes in December 2011: “Growing up in Chicago, I lived in a four-flat apartment building where Christmas day was a feeding frenzy. It went, like a progressive dinner, from one apartment to the next. … Today most of my family’s Christmas traditions are associated with food and drink. My wife Doris, a first generation American, brings her German family’s customs to the celebration by celebrating on Christmas Eve with a fairly fixed menu. Christmas Day at the Dressler house starts with Oyster Soup and then moves on to an exciting non-traditional midday meal . . . except for the pitcher of Manhattans!”

SOUTHERN COMFORT MANHATTAN

Doris’ uncle initiated this tradition for Christmas Day dinners in Chicago. If we make a “pilgrimage” to the frozen north in December, he will always have these made up, even if it’s not yet Christmas. I make a pitcher and keep it chilled on the deck in “Nature’s Refrigerator.” I like to use both Southern Comfort and a blended whiskey for a not-too-sweet, not-too-strong combination. For each serving:

  • 1 ounce Southern Comfort
  • 1 ounce blended whiskey (Seagram’s Seven/Canadian Mist)
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Mix the appropriate number of the first four ingredients in a pitcher. Stir well and chill. DO NOT ADD ICE OR YOU WILL DILUTE THE DRINK! To serve, pour into a cocktail glass, add ice as desired, and garnish with a cherry.

OYSTER SOUP

This traditional dish originated with my paternal grandmother from the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia. It was served at Christmas, mostly in the morning after chores were done but before gifts were exchanged, a wonderful warm reward on a cold Virginia morning. Prepare just before serving due to the milk base. Serve hot.

For 6 servings:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk (not skim milk, you want the butterfat)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ pint oysters, un-drained
  • Oyster crackers/toast strips

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat; blend in flour to make a roux. Add milk and stir constantly until mixture starts to boil and thicken. Add seasonings and stir. Remove any bits of shell from oysters; chop (if desired); and add with the oyster liquor to heated mixture. Warm thoroughly until the oysters start to curl. Serve hot with crackers/toast strips.

MONIKA’S CUCUMBER SALAD

This is my mother-in-law’s recipe and it is usually on the Christmas Eve menu. It’s a traditional German dish, which comes in two flavors.

  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Parsley

Flavor Option #1, mix:

  • 3 heaping tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Flavor Option #2, mix:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable/canola)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon sugar

Peel the cucumbers and thinly slice. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt; let stand for a half hour. Using a paper towel, wring the moisture from the cucumbers. Option #1: place cucumbers in a serving dish; stir in the sour cream mixture; garnish with parsley; and serve. Option #2: place cucumbers in a serving dish; stir in the oil/vinegar mixture; garnish with parsley; and serve.

MONIKA’S ROHLADEN

Rohladen (or Rindsrouladen) is a German dish usually consisting of bacon, onions, mustard and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef, which is then cooked. This dish always appears on Christmas Day at Doris’ parents. The following is my mother-in-law’s recipe; while it doesn’t call for mustard and pickles, my mother’s recipe did.

  • 1½ pounds thinly sliced beef (flank steak/top round) cut or pounded ¼” thick, 6 – 8” long, and 3 – 4” wide. Meat cut in this manner can be a challenge to find. I recommend Frankfurt Doner and Meats, 250 Gilmer Ferry Road in Ball Ground - just tell owner Detlev Werner you want meat for Rohladen . . . he will know what to do.
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil/butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bacon strips
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

Lay out the beef cutlets; sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped onion. Top with two strips of bacon per cutlet. Roll each cutlet and secure with toothpicks or cooking twine. Add the oil/butter to a Dutch oven and heat. Brown the rolls on all sides. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour, checking frequently to ensure enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Add a little red wine (or water) if the liquid gets low. Serve with boiled potatoes and Rotkohl (red cabbage); the recipe for Rotkohl is in the October Smoke Signals.

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