It's the twelfth day of our Advent posts! So I, dear readers, your true love, erm, blogger am giving to you my family's recipe for the most delicious Christmas morning you will ever have.
To begin, I'd like to share a little bit of my family history, since I am, after all, sharing a secret holiday recipe -- one that has been guarded for one whole generation!
My mom was a child of the 50s, and while she always made sure we had healthy meals set before us, she didn't really enjoy cooking when we were kids, and therefore her dishes often lacked the imagination and love that is evident in a meal prepared by someone who likes to cook. So all of our family's different holiday traditions -- meal-wise -- came from my godmother, Annie Abbott.
Annie was born Anika in Amsterdam, and met my godfather when she was 16, and he was a GI on leave during the Korean War. They -- so the legend goes -- fell in love in and were married in a week, and Woody (my godfather) shipped her back to the states to live with his family while he continued his service to our country. Supposedly, Anika spoke no English when she arrived on Virginia shores, and was taken in by Woody's family, taught English by his brother and sister, (who were 16 and 17, respectively) and became Annie. I always wondered how she and Woody were able to communicate over in Holland enough to get married, but I suppose the language of love knows no bounds, because after 60 plus years, they're still going strong -- despite the use of their pet names for each other: Stink, and Stinker.
Anyhow, my brother and I spent as much time at Annie and Woody's house as we did our own -- we even had our own room there -- so you can imagine her scope of influence in my life. She was fond of teaching me all things Dutch, her English quite impeccable by the time I came along (With the exception of the sound of "th". It was always "Dose", "Dem", and "Batroom".). It was only later in life that I discovered that some of the "Dutch" things she taught me were only Dutch in the since that she was doing them.
Things Annie called Dutch, that actually ARE:
Dutch pancakes - these are somewhere between crepes and traditional pancakes, with lots of eggs and vanilla, and a touch of sugar. Amazing with Deruyter Chocoadehagel Puur (Dark chocolate sprinkles) or jam.
Dutch Stroopwafels - I do believe the Dutch invented these, so the signifier may be overkill
Dutch Tulips - again, just tulips.
Dutch Licorice - a variety of candies that range from mildly sweet and/or spicy to salty. Salty licorice (dubel zout, specifically) is still my favorite thing in the world. They are, I've been told, an acquired taste, and many people I've shared them with have likened their taste to cat pee. I cannot deny the hint of ammonia, but still, I crave them like nothing else. In fact, I'm having one right now. Annie used to bring pounds of these treats back home from her annual visits to the Netherlands, and I would make the pound she'd give me each year last as long as my little hands could.
Things Annie called Dutch that, turns out…
Double Dutch Knot - the double knot you tie in your shoelaces.
Double Decker Dutch Bus - I'm not even sure they use double decker buses in Holland.
Dutch Fruitcake - Annie always made the most amazing fruitcake. Her secret? Soaking it in spiced rum for two days. Alas, the only thing that made this recipe Dutch was the cook.
Dutch Jumping Rope - the thing where two children each hold an end of the rope and a third jumps.
Hans Christian Andersen - he's Danish.
Saint Nicholas - while he IS the patron saint of Amsterdam, the Dutch aren't the only country who claim him.
Dutch Sausage and Cheese Balls - recipe to follow.
It's also a Dutch tradition to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, (sshhh! Let me keep on believing this!) so every December the 24th, my whole family would join Annie and Woody for a feast to rival the tables at Hogwarts, followed by present opening and spiced nog. Then Annie would gather the kids in the kitchen, and we would take turns kneading the sausage and cheese ball dough that she would send home with us -- along with a bag of oranges -- for Christmas morning. I cannot do justice in describing the flavor combination of these delicious doodads paired with sliced oranges when they are warm out of the oven.
I was convinced that the recipe was mystical and complicated in a way that only Annie could conjure, but the first Christmas after I moved to New York, (and couldn't come home for the holiday) I begged Annie for her recipe. The making of this, our Christmas tradition, has since become my official duty, and I think you'll be as surprised as I was by both the recipe itself, and the results:
Dutch Sausage & Cheese Balls:
(this is what they look like BEFORE they go into the oven, and how close together you can space them.)
-1lb spicy sausage (the kind in a big plastic tube, like Jimmy Dean makes. Also, those of you adverse to spice can substitute plain old breakfast sausage.)
-1 1/2 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
-bring to room temperature
-knead with hands
-Add 3 cups Bisquick
-knead with hands more
-form into balls approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter
-bake ate 375º for 20 minutes
-While they are in the oven, don't forget to slice up the oranges. You'll want to take a bite of orange for every bite of sausage & cheese ball, trust.
And there you have it! Now you know what I'll be doing on Christmas morning, and I hope you'll all join me. Spread the Dutch!