A New Year’s tradition I can get behind

And we’re baaaaack!  Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you had wonderful holidays and are not too bummed about the upcoming drabness of January and February.

Growing up, I always dreaded New Year’s Day.  No, not because of some existential angst about the passing of another year or because of a sparkling cider hangover.  It was because New Year’s Day meant the traditional Southern meal of collard greens, black eyed peas, and rice.  Apparently, the greens are to bring you money, the peas to bring change (like pocket change, not yes-we-can change), and the rice to bring health.  I always thought the peas were redundant because if you had greenbacks, was change really necessary?  I also thought everything in this meal was gross.  Even the rice, which sounded safe, was some box mix that was soggy and disappointing.  To top it all off, my mom served some barbecue concoction from the freezer section that was also gross.  Picture pre-sauced pork with bits of fat and bone in it served in its square plastic box.  For years, I thought I hated barbecue because I thought this was all barbecue was.  (I love you, Mom!!  To honor you, I refrained from washing clothes on New Year’s so as not to wash anyone out of my life.  Although not doing laundry for a day really isn’t a hardship.)  Needless to say, I did not continue this tradition with my own family.

Fast forward to Italy, a friend here asked me if I noticed all the stacked boxes of a certain type of meat that showed up in the groceries stores in December.  Cotechino, to be exact.  I had not, but once she mentioned it, I did notice the meats everywhere.  It turns out, cotechino (made up of various fatty bits of pork with a disturbingly long shelf life) eaten with lentils is a traditional New Year’s meal in Italy.  Although many Italians eat it at midnight, we opted to try it on the actual New Year’s Day.  The more lentils you eat, the more prosperity in the coming year.

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And by we, I mean James.  He could tell you more on his preparation methods, but he soaked the lentils a very long time.  Like longer than overnight.

Then he cooked them with pancetta, onions, garlic, and homemade stock.

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Once removed from the box, you see that the cotechino is in its own aluminum pouch.  You boil the pouch.

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Then you prick the bag and add the meat juice to the lentils.  Later, you just remove the cotechino from the bag and slice.

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I’m not gonna lie; I was a little anxious about the meal.  Mystery meat makes me nervous and super fatty meat is not my jam.  All of my worry was completely misplaced.  This. was. stupid. good.  The lentils on their own were very flavorful.  I may be adding more beans to our meal lineup.  But with the cotechino, the whole thing just went up about 38 levels.  The cotechino just melted into the lentils.  Everything had a delicious salty and fatty flavor.  We all loved it, including the toddler, but that isn’t really saying much, beans and sausage are both his jam.

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It was a very rich meal.  I couldn’t imagine eating it after a large New Year’s Eve meal, but it was terrific as a New Year’s Day lunch.  (With leftovers for dinner.)  As an added bonus, this would be an ideal hangover food.  Not an issue for me though.  NYE this year was prosecco, sushi, and watching Sherlock with James, which was a pretty perfect night.  Which also is an indication that I’m getting old.

I had not planned on staying up until midnight, but I can report that Italians are crazy about their NYE fireworks.  We had been warned, but I thought after the fireworks spectacular in our old ‘hood in DC (Columbia Heights, represent!), we would be prepared.  We were not.  It really sounded like we were being bombed, and while the fireworks were present all evening, they were really raining down on us at midnight.  Luckily, the kids slept right through.

So, new family New Year’s tradition, ACHIEVED.  Now I just have to see if I can get cotechino back home.  With the shelf life on this stuff though, I could be set for several years if I just grab a few boxes before we leave.

What did you eat on New Year’s?  Any family traditions?


So what do you do with all that turkey . . . ?

We had a great Thanksgiving.  I have a lot for which to be grateful.  I’m always thankful for my family and friends, here and back home.  I’m also thankful for many things in Rome.  We’ve met many wonderful people.  We are living in a great place with friendly neighbors, elevators big enough to fit the double stroller, and a playground outside the front door.  There is much to be thankful for indeed.

I’m thankful we got to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal with friends here.  And Thanksgiving meal means leftovers!  I don’t get sick of these.  Here’s what we did:

Slate recommends a Thanksgiving burrito.  We didn’t go that far, but we did start off with plain heated leftovers.  Our issue was that we ran out of turkey much earlier than I would have liked.  After some calculations, I decided that a 10-15 pound bird would be good.  I did tell James that “on the low end of that range should be enough.”  Apparently there was some miscommunication, and he came home with a 9.5 pounder.  I can only blame myself for lack of clarity.  (I mostly blame James.)

So we moved on to other things.  Behold, our french toast casserole sweet potato souffle.  For this one, I soaked leftover french bread with milk, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla overnight (loosely following this, but with way less milk and egg), and baked in the morning with a topping of sweet potato souffle.  Our souffle topping is very similar to the one on the french toast so it worked.  Oh, did it work.  This was a definite winner.

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We also did chili mac and cheese.   Step one: make chili.  Step two:  place it over heated macaroni and cheese casserole.  And voila!

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Even though we were working with a turkey deficit, we did make turkey soup.  Kind of followed this recipe.  (Many of these recipes are called turkey carcass soup.  I know that is exactly what it is, but I wouldn’t mind a little gloss on it.)  I browned sausage and then sauteed the veggies in the sausage grease.  As the recipe suggests, I added a dollop of leftover mashed potatoes.  Now that I’m getting sniffly, this one has been particularly awesome.


What about you?  What have you been eating?  Any exotic leftover traditions?