The celebrations continue both stateside and in the islands. In Puerto Rico Christmas traditions begin in early December and are kept alive through almost the end of January. Historically these customs were religious in nature, however, with the passage of time, stateside commercialism has caused these traditions to be somewhat abbreviated. Believe me, there are way more parties now than Catholic Masses and the praying of the Rosary plus “Santa Clo” has taken center stage. When I was growing up, the Christmas holidays were kept separate; at home with the birth of the Christ child and the arrival Santa Claus followed by Three Kings Day and the celebration of the birth of Jesus which was brought front and center to us after a two and one half hour flight from Miami to San Juan.
It has been years since I’ve spent New Years Eve and Three Kings Day with my family in Puerto Rico, nonetheless, my heart and soul are there. I think of my grandmother preparing platter after platter of “arroz con dulce”, Puerto Rican rice pudding, then delivering it to fortunate neighbors. I chuckle to myself when I recall the tradition of leaving grass for the Three King’s camels for them to munch on while the Three Wise Men distributed our gifts. My older sister, Cynthia, and I were given empty shoe boxes to fill with flora. Not only did we grab handfuls of grass but we scoured my grandparent’s garden for perfect, lemony-yellow alamanda blossoms and the most brilliant clusters of fuchsia bougainvillea. I was thoroughly convinced the more glorious my shoebox, the better my haul. Although the Christmas holidays were my mother’s favorite time of the year I now recognize how difficult, sometimes brutal, they could be for her. I recall one Christmas my father’s clothing store, The Tack Room, was robbed not only of cash but also of every piece of brand new holiday merchandise. Some years we weren’t able to make the trip to Puerto Rico due to all of our schedules. Sweets from Spain like hard turron were sent to us special delivery with boxes of handmade Puerto Rican pasteles, snugly packed in dry ice. Presents arrived gaily wrapped, always, always including page a day tear-off calendars in Spanish from Banco Popular. Each day had the appropriate saint’s name printed on it just waiting to be ripped off the pad. As magical as those packages were, how heart wrenching it must have been for my mother to be so far from her family, her traditions, her culture. There’s nothing more sweeter or pleasing to the ear than hearing your mother tongue in the day to day cacophony of existence. I am beginning to see, to understand, the importance of recognizing blessings in the midst of bumps in the road. It seems as though every Christmas has its own “tragedy” mixed with its own good fortune. One year Mama died. Another year saw the loss of Dad. We had all our treasured Christmas ornaments stolen one year ago. This years trial was the sudden flooding of our neighborhood. We received eight inches of rain in four hours resulting in a swamp beginning in our son’s room, flowing through our study, ending with water lapping the step up to our dining room. Ugh. This was four days before Christmas? The pool was left pitch black, PITCH BLACK, from masses of mud and mulch swept in from the sudden inundation. Y’all. I can’t even. Jimmy worked on the outside of the house while I labored with the inside. My brother, Tommy, dropped everything, flew over and pitched in. I realized I had grown a bit in the past year when I found myself the mantra, “If your house is flooded then it means you HAVE a house.” Therefore, it’s time for me to focus on my blessings, large and small. Our son, James, has one year into a relationship with a most splendid young lady. Can a mother ask for more than her child to be happy? My husband, Jim, was given another class to teach at Harvard. Thank you, God. Our niece, Elizabeth, was married this past April in a magnificent, over the top, Indian wedding. Jimmy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage… who’d a thunk? There were no hurricanes blowing through south Florida… whew! James celebrated his third year working at UM. In culmination, my little sister, Pamela, just reminded me of our car prayer we said everyday as we drove our children to school…”Please God, give us and all our children happy, healthy and productive lives.” And for that I give thanks. Can I get an amen?
This is THE perfect, ideal pate for your holiday cocktail party, big or small. I promise it will be gobbled up. Seriously. It gives pate new meaning. My friend, Andrea, had an intimate girl’s gathering the other night and this was my contribution. This rich, sumptuous appetizer is belied by the ease of preparation. Omg. This pate is every hostesses dream. It is silky smooth and savory with complex flavors until you get hit with a burst of sweetness from the currants. Even those who don’t care for liver, (me), love this treat. The chicken livers are simmered in a celery and peppercorn broth, drained, then tossed into a food processor with most of the remaining ingredients. Lots of butter is involved. The ingredients are processed until smooth, spooned into a terrine or crock, chilled and then enjoyed. The brandy called for may be substituted with cognac. There have been times when the only spirit in the house was rum, albeit good, sipping rum, and the pate came out fabulous. The recipe doubles easily. Between the flavors of the brandy, currants and spices, this pate is a game changer and is guaranteed to please a crowd. This recipe is based on The Silver Palate Cookbook’s Pate Maison.
Chicken Liver Pate
- 3 stalks of celery including leaves
- 8 whole peppercorns
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound chicken livers
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 small roughly chopped yellow onion
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
- 1/4 cup currants
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)
- fresh bay leaves or sprigs of thyme to garnish (both optional)
- To a medium sized saucepan add celery, peppercorns, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Add chicken livers and simmer until chicken livers are barely pink inside, about 7-10 minutes.
- Drain chicken livers, discarding celery and peppercorns. Add chicken livers to food processor bowl with remaining ingredients EXCEPT currants and melted butter. Process until smooth.
- Pour into a bowl and stir in currants. Transfer to terrine or serving bowl and smooth top. If using melted butter, gently pour on top making certain to cover all crannies and corners. Gently press in fresh bay leaves or thyme sprigs.
- Cover and chill at least 4 hours.
- May be served cold or at room temperature on French bread, toast points or crackers. This pate will stay fresh 4-5 days covered in the refrigerator. I understand pate freezes well, up to 2 months, although I’ve never frozen it.