Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Tuscany

Italians often ask me what Americans eat for Christmas. And Americans often ask me what Italians eat for Christmas. The answer to this is not precise, as each family has their own traditions and recipes based on regional ingredients and influences.

For the past few years I've been sharing Christmas with Gionni's family in the countryside of Florence. They celebrate and open their gifts on the 25th.


This year was a fun mix. On the 24th we were invited to have a fish dinner at our friends' house. They had bought a puppy for their daughter's gift, so there was the added bonus of playing with little Leone all night. In fact, the puppy was so cute I didn't take many photos of the dinner!

Leone sniffing the wine.

We started off with Champagne and crostini with butter, smoked salmon and fresh lemon.

Then we ate spaghetti with a spicy octopus sauce, served with another bottle of Champagne...

Have I mentioned lately how good really good Champagne is? It is so complex and fresh.

And finally, we ended with triglie alla livornese, red mullet in a spicy red sauce, with salad and grilled zucchine.

For dessert we had a chocolate semi freddo and lemon sorbetto, as well as torroncini.

Before going to sleep, Gionni and I exchanged gifts in bed! I am declaring this a new tradition. My favorite gift? Aceto di Birra, beer vinegar.

Beer Vinegar


Today, we headed over to Gionni's house to have a traditional lunch of crostini, salumi, tortellini in brodo, cappone e mostarda, roasted meats, potatoes and salad. We started with a bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso with the Antipasto and Primo, then a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2006 with the meats.

Crostini, Salumi, Sotto Aceti Antipasto

The antipasto included sausage and stracchino cheese crostini, liver crostini, Boccio's capers and black olives, and sundried tomatoes, prosciutto toscano and finocchiona.

Fagottini in Brodo di Cappone, Primo

Tortellini are traditionally served in capon broth for Christmas. Today we traded the tortellini in for an upgrade to fagottini, little bags. They tend to have even more filling of pork and bread and are very flavorful.

Capon thigh, Stewed Red Onions

Patate Fritte with Sage

Yes, this is a little bitty bird. I didn't eat it but had to get a photo. Gionni's father hunts, so these little guys show up on the table pretty frequently. He was roasted with sage.

Roasted Tordo

I opted for grilled pork ribs, which I ate with the potatoes and a salad of field greens.

After the carnage was complete, out came the desserts. Panettone, a staple of Italian Christmas sweets, and torroncini, nougat, another holiday classic.

Panettone and Torroncini

Gionni's mom also made her specialty, Schiacciata Fiorentina, which is traditionally served for Easter but served year round at her house.

Schiacciata Fiorentina, Cake filled with Whipped Cream

And by the time we ate all this and washed it down with an espresso, a bottle of grappa was offered to help digest.

Grappa to the rescue!

Usually, by the time the grappa hits the table, Boccio has headed to the couch for a cat nap.

Boccio's nap means the meal is over.

What did you eat today? Who did you eat it with? Please share your holiday traditions below so I can report back to the curious Italians!

Best Wishes and Merry Christmas!

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