'Appy Holidays

Andrew Mueller

andy mueller | in the kichen with chef andy | dec. 2019

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the kitchen … Ho Ho Hold on to your apron! Singer Andy Williams croons, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," and I couldn't agree more. Mistletoeing, hearts glowing, kids jingle belling and mom and dad yelling … wait, well that's a bit more realistic than the original version. It gets a little nutty this time of year for many people but it usually has to do with trying to cram 20 days worth of work into only 12 days of Christmas. There's help.

A chef I worked for many years ago taught me about the five P's of the foodservice industry and these can be applied to most things in life, especially when you have a mountain of things to do before the holidays hit: Proper preparation prevents poor production. Simple, easy to remember and oh so true.

I remember the grand Christmas feasts at grandma and grandpa Ryan's house. Glazed ham, roast beef and we actually did have Christmas goose every year. The giant beasts were much appreciated by all, but I remember all the sides, sweets and appetizer treats more than anything else. Maybe this was a catalyst in cementing my career path as a chef, but the pickled and creamed herring, relish trays with assorted pate' and all the "little dishes" were what I looked forward to most of all.

Nothing was complicated to make, just very time consuming for my grandparents. They loved to do it and were both excellent cooks but I remember them being in the kitchen from morning until night just to make us all happy. I want the same when I'm hosting for the holidays, but I make sure to keep the five P's in the front of my mind as I'm thinking about my approach.

When we gather at mom's for Christmas, we've morphed the big production of a sit-down dinner into a casual culinary display with lots of choices and easy-to-make small dishes that allow all of us plenty of time to talk and laugh instead of cooking and cleaning. I hope my two sons have Christmas memories as fond as I've had and I just hope they remember it's that the time spent with each other that is far more important than the time spent in the kitchen.

Try this super simple but very delicious appetizer that my grandfather would make every Christmas. We still make it every year and it's always the first to go. Merry Christmas and "Appy" Holidays!

Cocktail Smokies with Red Currant Sauce

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat add:

1 package little smokies cocktail wieners (Hillshire Farms is best, approx. 1.75-pound package)

1 jar (12 ounces) red currant jelly (this is found in larger grocery stores in the area. If you can't find it, substitute half grape jelly and half apple jelly)

3/4 of a 20-ounce squeeze bottle of French's yellow mustard

Stir to combine, bring to a slow simmer, turn heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Don't cook over high heat as the high sugar content from the jelly will cause it to burn. Serve in a bowl with toothpicks on the side and watch these little beauties disappear!

--Little Smokies photo by Drew Geraets is licenced under CC BY-NC 2.0. Find more of his work a flickr.com and a copy of this license at creativecommons.org.

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