bacon wrapped pork loin, christmas eve, christmas food, holiday gluttony, holidays, lithanian kucios, lithuanian foods, lithuanian traditions, mashed potato casserole

Eatmas 2011

There is a serious holiday hangover happening in our house right now. For nearly 36 hours straight, we were absolute holiday gluttons. We feasted, opened presents and watched ‘A Christmas Story’ at least 1.5 times. It was a wonderful past few days with The Missus, but we probably could have done without a helping of thirds of the Vinegretas. I couldn’t close the refrigerator last night because of how much food we had just for the two of us. Maybe it’s because our families are so far away that we feel the need to overcompensate with an ungodly amount of bacon and puff pastry. But, whatever the reason, we had a fantastic holiday and have a lovely shiney coat because of all of the fat we consumed.

The feasting started Saturday with another non-traditional, traditional Kūčios. This year we violated every rule about dairy and meat, though we started with something a little more traditional:

Smoked mackerel with pickled beets and horseradish sour cream. We served this with Lithuanian rye bread and the mackerel came from Duck Trap in Maine. For dinner we had traditional Lithuanian dumplings (Kuldūnai), bacon buns (Lasineciai) and Vinegretas.


1 lb ground lamb (not too lean) or ½ lb ground beef and ½ lb ground pork (for fattier
1 med onion chopped
Fresh ground pepper and salt one pinch each

1 egg
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 pinch salt

Mix filling ingredients together and set aside. Mix together dough mixture and roll out
onto floured surface. Cut out 2-3 inch circles of dough and fill with a spoonful of meat
filling. Fold it in half and press edges down with a fork. Add kuldūnai to boiling water
and cook for 10 minutes or until they all float. Serve with Sour Cream Butter sauce.

Sour Cream Butter sauce
In a pan melt equal parts butter and sour cream until sour cream has pretty much melted.
Pour over kuldūnai.

We cheated and used won ton skins for the dumpling wrappers and it didn’t quite work out the best for us. While The Missus made a fantastic meat mixture, the skins just became soggy and noodley, which made for a very unpleasant texture. We vowed to make the dough from scratch next year.

The bacon buns were simply made with coarsely chopped bacon(I believe she used 3/4 of a pound), crisped in a pan.
Remove the bacon, drain some of the fat and saute in about 1 cp of onions until soft. Season with salt and pepper and mix in bacon and let cool to room temperature.
Defrost your puff pastry according to directions, then remove to a floured surface and cut off squares for the buns.
Roll out to desired size and place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle.
Fold over top and seal to bottom, crimping edges to ensure they don’t bust open.
Brush with egg wash and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.

Now, it’s not easy to top the Lithuanians when it comes to pork and potatoes, but I think I managed to do it this year with a bacon and garlic encrusted pork roast.

Both the bacon and the roast came from a friend of The Missus who gave them to us for tossing him a few dollars worth of pink salt over the summer. I’d say we more than came out on top in that trade.

The roast was succulent and moist, with a bit of smokiness from the bacon ring.

But, there was more than just pork. There was mashed potato casserole, too! And something green!

Mashed Potato Casserole with Sour Cream and Chives

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, and more for the pan

6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons finely chopped chives

2/3 cup bread crumbs

2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

1. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large pot, bring the potatoes, 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

3. Mash potatoes with 10 tablespoons butter, sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mash in the chives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spread potatoes into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix together until it forms coarse crumbs. Crumbs can be refrigerated for three days.

5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the potato casserole and bake until golden and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.

I cut the recipe in half and added a cup of shredded Cave Aged Gruyere to the mashed potatoes before I set them in the refrigerator. This lent a nice salt and nuttiness that balanced out the 3/4 of a cup of sour cream. I’d say that this was easily the “fat kid” winner at the table this year. It was ridiculously rich(nearly a stick of butter in the potatoes, along with a container of sour cream and cheese) and I kept wanting more of it even when I was past rational fullness.

The greens were a Mario Batali recipe for broccoli rabe that I’ve made a few times. It’s extremely quick and simple and that was exactly what I needed after spending most of the day in the kitchen.

Broccoli Rabe, Pugliese

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup small pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  1. In a large, deep saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the broccoli rabe, then add it to the saucepan with the water still clinging to it. Cover the pan tightly and cook until the broccoli rabe is tender and just a few spoonfuls of water remain, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and top with the olives

And, to top it all off, we had cheesecake. Both nights.

I think I’ll have salad the rest of the week.

catholic christmases, family traditions, lithanian kucios, lithuanian foods, lithuanian traditions

Lithuanian Kūčios and a Cajun Christmas Pt.1

Christmas is pure tradition–whether or not you attend Mass on Christmas Eve, what foods you eat or when you open your gifts. Everyone has their thing. My family, in the years after my parents divorced, really only had one. This was when all 50+ of us, our significant others and family-less friends gathered at my aunt and uncles house to feast. There would be ham, creamed potatoes, meatballs, deli meats and cheeses. Nothing fancy and all completely buffet style. But, despite our Irish/German heritage, there were no holiday food traditions passed down. Like the make up of our family, our meals were simply hodgepodge. Then I met my partner, a Lithuanian, and a new world of holiday tradition was put in front of me.

Kūčios, their great meal on Christmas Eve, is something that I had heard about from the beginning of our relationship but only had my first taste of it this year. Because of my retail job time off around the holidays, to join her and her family in Florida or Boston, has been nothing more than a hope. But, this year she decided not to travel and treated me to my first Kūčios.

Before now the word ‘herring’ was dropped around a lot and it worried me. Pickled or in sour cream is usually what her family serves, though it’s in nearly every dish for Kūčios. “Herring is bait,” my partner has always said and we opted for crab cakes in it’s place. We had three dishes, far fewer than the traditional dozen, having mushroom buns

(Pyragėliai su grybais) and

Vinegretas (a beet/potato/bean salad) along side our Whole Foods Crab Cakes (working retail during the holidays does a number on your desire to cook).

When I got home from work that evening and saw the table set I asked, “Who’s coming over?” R. told me that you always set an extra seating for those who could not be there. We may have missed the communion like wafer and the hay on the table (again, traditions we chose to ignore) but this was one I’m glad she kept. We both lost family members this year, her uncle and my grandfather, so the empty place setting meant a lot even if I was a bit slow to catch on.

The meal was great with the added bonus of having to do nothing but pan fry the crab cakes. And, like most food that originates in the Baltics, it was ‘stick to your rib’ country food. The vinegretas, for all of it’s beety brightness, was my favorite. In fact, even though we halved the recipe (see below), the Missus still made enough to feed us for several days and I have absolutely no qualms with that.

Christmas Eve was about finally being able to experience the traditions–for as loose as we interpreted them–that my partner holds so dear. It was about finally, after six years of being together, starting to build our own traditions–like enjoying crab instead of herring. We’d wake up the next morning, drink some coffee, lazily open our stockings and cook until it was time to leave to go enjoy some other new traditions that laid a bit closer to home… but more on that in a day or so..

2 cups of the following:

  • Cooked navy beans (dried and never from a can–so I’m told)
  • Beets (boil whole, unpeeled beets; after cooled, peel and dice)
  • Potatoes (boiled, peeled whole; after cool, dice)
  • Carrots (peeled, boiled and diced)
  • Pickles (‘good quality’ Dill pickles; diced)
  • Onions (1 cp diced, left raw; 1 cp gently sauteed until translucent)

Mix all ingredients together
Add about 1/2 cp vegetable oil
Add in juice of 1/2 of one lemon; add more to taste
Season with salt and pepper to taste

Best if made the day before serving. Enough to feed at least 24 adults.