Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Feast

In 2006, my Mother-in-Law gave us a recipe book compiled by the Greek Orthodox community in Detroit, Michigan. It is the same recipe book that she has always used and has been published unchanged since 1957. Even though the Greek Orthodox community put this book together, I use the recipes for many of our traditional Hellenic festivals. Good food is just good food, regardless of the philosophy.

At the beginning of the book, there is a suggestion for a Greek New Year's Eve feast:

The Greek New Year's feast is symbolic of prosperity and good fortune - one to be shared by families and friends in open house fashion.

The Typical New Year's Eve table is adorned with fine linen and silver, and bears as a centerpiece a cornucopia (horn of plenty) overflowing with assorted fruits and nuts of the traditional Vasilopita or New Year's Cake. The Vasilopita, which is customarily prepared for New Year's Eve and in which is inserted a gold or silver coin, is cut at midnight into as many pieces as there are members of the family. The one who finds the lucky coin is said to have good fortune in the New Year.

New Year's Dinner

Shrimp Cocktail
Celery hearts, green onions, cucumber slices
Roast Suckling Pig
Pork Pie with Coin
Mavrodaphne Wine
New Year's Bread

As I have learned in reading the Hellenic Cookbook, very rarely do the suggestions match the recipes included in the book. Those quirky Greeks! Therefore, I have no idea how to make most of these items but they sure sound like a great New Year's Feast. And with the addition of Pork, this menu would be appropriate to honor Persephone. If you set a table with the cornucopia, that would symbolize the bounty of Demeter to help usher in the prosperity of the New Year.

There is one recipe, however, that I do have. It is my mother-in-law's recipe for Pastitsio. It is probably my favorite Greek dish and I make it frequently. Family recipes like this do tend to evolve so as my Mother-in-law learned it from her mother-in-law and made her own modifications, I have done the same.

Baked Macaroni with Meat Filling - Pastitsio Me Crema

1 lb Macaroni (by this they mean traditional Makaronia, a long noodle with a hole in the middle. If you can't find this, I have found that some Ziti works just fine.)

2 lbs Ground Meat (it really does just say Meat - doesn't specify what kind. I use ground sirloin. My MIL uses both beef and pork)

2 cups grated cheese (I mix 1 cup each Parmesan and Romano)

Several cloves of chopped garlic. I like a lot of garlic, so I use probably about 8 or 10 cloves.

1/2 of a "Large" can of Tomato Paste. I have never quite been able to figure out what this means - so I just use a small can.

3 eggs
1/4 lb melted butter
1/2 cup wine (Red. Tasty)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

Boil the macaroni in salted water, drain and return to pan. Prepare meat sauce by frying the garlic in a little butter, adding the meat, tomato paste, small glass of wine and seasoning. I like the flavor of Nutmeg, so I use a fair amount. Cook until the meat is done, adding a little water or wine of necessary to thin out the mixture a little bit if it is too dry.

Pour half the melted butter and most of the grated cheese over the cooked macaroni. Add three eggs, lightly beaten. Season the macaroni and place in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Cover the noodles with meat mixture.

Now make the cream sauce:

1 quart of milk
2 eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons of wondra flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 lb melted butter

Place melted butter in a saucepan and add the wondra, stirring until mixed thoroughly. Add the milk, stirring all the while. Cook over low flame until thickened. Add salt and remove from flame. When cooled slightly, add the beaten eggs and mix well. Spread cream sauce over the assembled noodles and meat sauce. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.

Bake in "Moderate" oven for 40 minutes. I have translated "moderate" to mean 350 degrees.

Eat and Enjoy.

Happy New Year!

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