Once upon a time, not very long ago, houses were not well heated.
I was little but I clearly remember my family Sunday meals and ,above all, the very special traditional Christmas menu.
My family, Florentine for generations on my mother and father's side, used to prepare traditional Christmas recipes that were present in the typical courses described in the 10th century Artusi's book.
I remember the dish you'll always find on a Florentine Christmas table, the beef spleen patè Crostini served on Frusta bread, which literally means "whip-lash", in other words the Tuscan Baguette, toasted on the fire or wet with stock, better for old people with teeth problems.
The second course was the home made Tortellini in Capon Broth, prepared by my grandmother and all the other members of her family. They all gathered around the working table which was normally used for other jobs, and on this occasion turned into the best wooden board to make tortellini.
My family were artisans and all my relatives used to work hard until late at Christmas eve and, once their duty was completed, they made Tortellini all together.
Tortellini soup was followed by a variety of boiled meat cuts together with the Savore, a sauce made with stale bread, lemon juice and garlic, and, sometimes, the parsley made "Salsa Verde" full of strong flavours was an extra Christmas deli. How delicious was that!
The following course was the "Galantina di Pollo", an elegant stuffed chicken with pistachios and truffle, served with jellied stock set in nice moulds, refrigerated outside the windows, hoping that the temperature was cold enough to have it set on time, as refrigerators were too small and full of other food.
The menu continued with the main courses and the stews, and the Florentine beef "Stracotto" was always found on a Florentine Christmas table. The recipe started with a "Soffritto", sauteed aromatic vegetables, the common base of many Italian recipes, wine, tomato and a special beef cut that keeps its shape even after 3-4 hrs cooking. This dish became more important in my father'shouse in the "Dolce e Forte" version that is normally made with Wild boar or Hare dish, though in my house beef was also used.
The Dolce e Forte includes the use of sugar, wine vinegar, pine nuts, raisins, chocolate and candied fruit to enrich the sauce at the end of the cooking. These extra ingredients made the dish more elegant and rich, though not appreciated by everybody. So it was served onto 2 serving dishes both in the Stracotto version and in the Dolce e Forte one, to make everybody happy.
I love Dolce e Forte but I was, and I am still, so slow at eating it that I needed/need to eat quickly to avoid the chocolate sauce solidifying again on my plate, as my house was very cold!
The warm atmosphere of those past days is unforgettable even if we didn't have many parcels to unfold or presents to share, the food was precious, prepared with a lot of care with the help of all the family. The time spent at preparing all the food and the time at the table together was wonderful.
Nice memories of the traditional Christmas with the family...