Boxing Day at Bookends Cottage

This year, while Nettl plans her Christmas dinner (traditionally, she makes the three major holiday meals because I do the "every day" cooking throughout the year), I'm working on my menu for Boxing Day. People in the States aren't blessed with this December 26 day of friends and food—most poor suckers are back in their cubicles at work—but I was introduced to it when I lived in England in the way back when, and I liked it so much, I brought it home with me...

Our new tradition is that Nettl's cousins and other non-immediate family members come to see us on Boxing Day. Some of them drive up to Tulsa from Dallas to spend Christmas with their families, and they all come over here the following day. Last year we went out to eat at Mexico Joes's and we all were disappointed, especially those of Hispanic descent. Well, I can make better Mexican food than that place, so I've decided to do just that. Now, I know this menu isn't even remotely traditional, but when the Universe can manage to get me to that manor house in England, I'll be more than happy to do it the their way. Until then, bite me.

Because I'm a native Californian, my recipes will be slightly different from what our Tex-Mex relations are used to. I'm sure they'll like it anyway. Inasmuch as California was part of Mexico until 1850, this is all part of my heritage, too, gringa that I am.

Pozole de Camarón. Mmmm... a pot of spicy soup consisting of shrimp and hominy, surrounded by bowls of cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, lime, avocado slices, and cilantro for toppings. Known in Mexico as the great hangover helper.

Tamales. I made these a couple of years ago and they're awesome. Stewed, seasoned, shredded porky goodness wrapped up in little bundles of masa-lined corn husks and steamed to perfection. They take a lot of work--two days--but they're really worth it. In southern California these are traditionally served on Christmas Eve, but I'm saving mine for Boxing Day this year.

Cheese Enchiladas. These are a staple around here, but they go far and are really inexpensive to make. When we have leftovers of any kind of enchiladas, that's all I eat. For days. Major yum!

Itchy Rice. Don't get the wrong idea, I gave this Mexican rice dish this name because the recipe was given to be by my Oxnard friend, Liz, whom I nicknamed Itchy back when we worked together. She comes from a large Mexican family (10 kids!), so she knows her rice! The secret to flaky, non-gummy rice? Use jasmine rice and sauté it in olive oil, stirring constantly, for at least 15 minutes. Gotta get all that starch off of it. Also, make it in a skillet, not a saucepan (use stock instead of water). Works every time.

Frijoles Refritos. Yes, I make them from "scratch". That monkey crap in the cans just doesn't even begin to compare.

Because everything on this menu except the rice takes a couple of days to make, I'll be in the kitchen on Christmas night. Doesn't bother me--I'm looking forward to it! I'm not worrying about making a dessert because the house will be full of sweet things to eat, but the buffet will include a fruit platter of fresh pineapple, oranges, pomegranates, star fruit, papaya, mangoes, and avocados.

So, what time are you dropping by?