The day after Christmas is just as disappointing as Christmas is exciting. Like a child coming home after a sleepover-birthday party or a hangover the morning after a “girls night out”, coming down from such a high is never easy (or pretty). Sure the Christmas tree is still up and there’s a few cookie crumbs to nibble on, but the realization that it’s all over-the feverish wrapping and unwrapping, the endless feasting, the frenetic traveling-is bittersweet.
We’ve just one more holiday hump to embark upon before the New Year, and the days in between December 25th and 31st are a much needed respite. What’s more, it is not yet the 1st of the year, so resolutions are put off just a little longer and thus true relaxation and enjoyment can finally commence.
Although, I must confess that I really had it quite easy this year; there weren’t any planes to catch, meals to plan or sleeping arrangements to configure. I spent Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family, a boisterous bunch whose holiday traditions include both participating in and watching side-splitting skit performances and all the while continuously gorging on homemade delicacies. There is something so comforting about seeing the same treats every year on my Grandma’s platters: dense fudge with walnuts, homey date pinwheels, pretzel-shaped kringla, caramel corn, nut brittles, toffee, and spritz cookies. The pièce de résistance of this sweet-filled menu are surely the Nanaimo bars, which feature a coconut and graham cracker crumb base topped with a rich vanilla icing and chocolate glaze. Don’t worry, no one has diabetes…yet.
Christmas Day was more of a savory affair with my mom’s side of the family. Pickled herring and onions, cheeses and crackers with Prosecco to start, followed by silky carrot-ginger soup and then bay leaf-studded prime rib with horseradish, cheesy polenta gnocchi, a mélange of Brussels sprouts, parsnips and bacon, crisp roast potatoes, green salad with Fuji apples and candied walnuts and dinner rolls. The meal was topped off with moist olive oil cake, blackberry sauce, and coffee. Needless to say, my mom’s cousin Tanya is quite the gracious host.
After two days of eating like there’s no tomorrow, you might suggest that I go for a jog or something, but let’s be honest, that’s just not gonna happen today. Cuddling up on the couch with some popcorn and watching a movie sounds much more realistic. I’m not a fan of the fake butter-flavor microwave variety, so I air-pop the corn, sprinkle it with various seasonings and then bake it to meld the flavors together and melt the cheese (if applicable). My favorite variation includes extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and Asiago cheese (which crisps into frico-like, cheesy, salty bits on the kernels). There’s nothing like an addictive snack and a thrilling movie to take away the sting from the post-Christmas crash. Merry Belated Christmas everyone!
Grate the cheese yourself with a fine Microplane grater; the cheese will become light, fluffy strands that cling to the popcorn better than the grainy, pre-grated stuff.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Pop the corn with an air popper or in a paper bag in the microwave and pour into a very large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, peppers, paprika, and minced garlic. Drizzle this mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat.
Spread the popcorn out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle evenly with grated cheese, and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese has crisped and is well browned. Serve immediately.