{How You Do It} Chrismukkah Potluck

Editor’s Note: Please enjoy Dianna’s second installment in her monthly {How You Do It} series. Don’t miss this hilarious peak into the yearly holiday tradition in Dianna & Michael’s home and also her recipe for {fake} chicken mole. Happy Chrismukkah to all! – Christina

I converted to Judaism six years ago. My husband is Jewish. I grew up post-Christian with a Czech mother who was educated by nuns and who spent World War II as a slave in a concentration camp. My father was a GI from Oklahoma. What to do about the holidays? Intact family traditions are kind of out of the question, so we cobbled and invented and came up with a mish mash of observances over the years, increasingly unbound by any expectation except that holidays should be fun, with lots of food. It’s either that or embrace nihilism.

For the last two decades, we have had potluck holiday dinners with an ever-shifting group of friends on Passover and Christmas. The Passover dinner is at our friend Joy’s house, with a rousing game of keep-away played in her back yard before the seder. We host the Chrismukkah dinner on December 25th, also celebrated as James Brown’s Jahrzeit (that is, the anniversary of James Brown’s death). Good music helps us get that Chrismukkah feeling, so one of our many loosely observed family traditions is to sing along with JB’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” on Christmas day. In fact, we were doing just that when someone walked in four years ago with the news that James Brown had died that morning. Rest in peace.

If Christmas overlaps with Hanukkah, we light the menorah and sing the Hebrew prayer for Hanukkah candle-lighting, or at least the part of it that we remember, and possibly bribe some small child into telling the story of Hanukkah, which involves a large foreign occupation force being overthrown by a small band of militant religious fanatics. We eat latkes with applesauce in their honor. Go figure.

The potluck, like our holiday celebration itself, has changed over the years. It used to be turkey and mashed potatoes and lots and lots of wine for the adults. There is usually a giant plate of homemade sushi from my friend Naomi, who sometimes makes enchiladas instead. Recently we have been trending more southwesterly, although we still clamor for sushi. A couple of times Joy and Gary have made pumpkin tamales, which are totally delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t have the recipe so I can’t post it. Mary Ellen makes pies, Martha and Seth bring a giant salad from their green house (it pays to cultivate close friendships with organic farmers) and I often make my never-fail crowd-pleaser (as long as the crowd isn’t vegetarian) Fake Chicken Molé. It has five ingredients and takes about half an hour to make so it is a good potluck dish. I am proud to say that I invented it myself after despairing at the difficulty of roasting and then grinding three kinds of chiles to make real molé. The recipe can be doubled or tripled or probably made a thousand fold with no ill effects.

Fake Chicken Molé:

Cook two medium cut-up onions over medium heat in a heavy skillet with some olive oil for about five minutes or until translucent.

Rinse, pat dry, trim fat, and cut into bite-size pieces a large package of skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Add them to the skillet and stir periodically over medium heat.

Once the chicken is no longer pink, reduce the heat to medium low and add a jar of good quality salsa. We like habañero, but you can go mild. Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce reduces somewhat and the chicken is cooked through.

Add one ounce of grated unsweetened chocolate. Stir until it is blended evenly into the sauce and the chocolate is entirely melted. Remove from heat.

This dish can be made ahead of time and reheated, but be careful not to let the bottom of the pan burn.

Eat with corn tortillas, sliced or mashed avocados and, if you want, rice. There are seldom leftovers.

This year I am also going to make my son Max’s elegant, easy, low calorie and delicious hors d’oeuvres: small pieces of smoked salmon, doubled over and placed on a slice of unpeeled cucumber, topped with a daub of Dijon mustard. Actually, I will probably ask him to make them, his mustard daubing and salmon folding is far superior to mine.

I like it when my sons prepare food for me.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Joy says:

    The Pumpkin Tamale recipe was originally published in Metroland and first tasted by us at Mexican Radio. Metroland publishes recipes for the holidays from various restaurants and we’ve been rolling them ever since. Thanks for introducing us to this site Dianna!

  2. Alexis says:

    I have always loved chicken mole dishes in “real” Mexican restaurants but had never thought of it as something I could actually make. You have changed me!

  3. I can’t believe it!

    Here I am, searching for Christmukahh recipes online and I click on this link and what do I see?

    The very same menorah that my family and I got late in the fall our first year in Stuttgart Germany!

    What are the odds?

    1. Dianna says:

      I am so glad you researched Chrismukkah recipes on line and found mine. That makes me happy. We bought our menorah in Berlin 30 years ago, so maybe it is a popular German style. Happy Thanksgivukkah! Time for cranberry rugelach and horseradish mashed potatoes!

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