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A charcuterie board doesn’t follow a recipe, but is instead a lesson in composition. Put together the perfect charcuterie spread with diverse textures and flavors using this easy cheat sheet.

Whole-Muscle Cuts

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Whole-muscle cuts of meat are shaved into slices, usually paper-thin. Common examples are proscuitto, lomo de cerdo, a cured pork tenderloin often just referred to as lomo, and bresaola, beef tenderloin that’s been air-dried and salted.

Dry-Cured Meat

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When using dry-cured meat such as salami or mortadella on a charcuterie board, mix it up with complementary and contrasting flavors. For example, a chorizo with a strong garlic flavor or a spicy sopressata should be balanced by something with a sweeter flavor profile, like mild and buttery saucisson sec.

Cheese

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When pairing cheese with charcuterie, it is all about opposites. One element needs to contribute a sensation of tart, citrusy, mouth-watering brightness to cut the fat and protein of the other. Charcuterie board staple cheeses are soft creamy blue or Brie, a pungent washed-rind variety, a hard aged salty cheese, a tangy goat cheese, and something sharp.

Pickled Vegetables

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Pickled vegetables complement the rich and salty flavors of meats and cheeses. Pickled items like red peppers, cucumbers, carrots, olives and red onions are a palate cleanser in between bites.

Bread/Crackers

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As a textural contrast, serve crusty bread, plain crackers, plain breadsticks or plain crostini. Mellow tasting items allow the flavor profile of the cheese and charcuterie to be at the forefront.

Mustards

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Mustards, made with a variety of sweet and savory herbs and spices, add complex flavor to a board. The tangy and spicy flavors also balance the richness of the cheeses and meats.

Something Sweet

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Add a sweet component like an infused honey or jam to counterbalance the salty and fatty cheeses and meats. Dried fruit like apricots, cranberries or figs are also a nice complement to a charcuterie board.

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Fish… for the holidays? While fish may seem like a non-traditional holiday meal, the ritual of eating fish and seafood on Christmas Eve dates back to the birth of Jesus Christ. This honored Italian tradition, known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes or “Esta dei Sette Pesci” in Italian, originated with Catholics from the southern regions of Italy, such as Naples and Sicily. This tradition is also known as The Vigil (La Vigilia) that commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of baby Jesus.

During the fasting period on Christmas Eve day, Italians refrained from eating meat and dairy products. Instead, they indulged in seven different fish or seafood dishes, which may have included baccala (dried, salted cod), crab, calamari, clams, lobster, oysters, pupa (octopus), scallops or shrimp. The fast ended when Holy Communion was received at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Why seven you might ask? Some believe it has to do with the seven sacraments or even that the world was created in seven days. The number of courses can vary. Some families do seven for the sacraments. Some do ten for the Stations of the Cross. And some even do 13 for the 12 apostles plus Jesus. Regardless of the symbolism, the observance of Christmas Eve dinner, or “Cena della Vigilia,” is all about family, the spirit of the holiday and seafood.

If you’re planning on cooking the feast for the first time, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. Keep the first course light. There are many more dishes to go. Try something simple like salted cod or salmon spread on toasted bread. A cold seafood salad for the second course is an ideal way to move into the more substantial courses. For the main course, try grilled, fried or boiled finfish and shellfish. Be sure to have seafood pasta and stew courses as well.

 

Fresh Shucked Oysters

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Fresh raw oysters are magnificent. The flavors can drastically changed depending on the type of oyster you buy. They can be very briney, sweet, umami and mushroomy. The important thing is to buy oysters as fresh as possible, store them properly and shuck them at the very last moment.

Creamy Salmon Chowder

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Chowders are a great way to warm up during the cold months. They are hearty soups loaded with bite-sized morsels of deliciousness. This creamy salmon chowder is rich in flavor but light enough to serve before  the main meal – as long as the portion isn’t too big.

Octopus Salad

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Octopus salad was a staple at my Sicilian grandparents house every Christmas Eve. The difference of textures between crunchy celery and soft octopus combined with really good extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs was the perfect way to set the palate up for the rest of the meal.

Baked Cod with Red Pepper Onion Relish

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Cod is a great fish to please lots of people. It’s not overly powerful and will take on the flavors of whatever you season it with. In this case, we use a red pepper and onion relish. The fish takes on lots of flavors including a little sweetness.

Shrimp Scampi over Rice

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Nearly everyone has tried shrimp scampi in the past. This is a foolproof recipe that will have the most die hard and pickiest of eaters clamoring for more. The rice is a nice touch as it is not as much of a carb commitment as say a traditional bowl of pasta.

Pan Seared Diver Scallops

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Seared diver scallops are one of the best bang for your effort seafood dishes in the world. They’re easy to prepare while, but don’t let the ease food you. This simple preparation will result in a luxurious dish just as good as any fine dining seafood restaurant.

Grilled Whole Fish

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Grilling a whole fish is a showstopper dish. Think of it as the thanksgiving turkey. Keeping the fish intact will not only be visually stunning, but the natural flavors will be enhanced and the fish will keep most of its moisture.

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Written by Daniel Puma

During the holiday season, we see certain foods and drinks that don’t normally show up in restaurants and bars any other time of year. That’s part of what makes these particular foods and drinks associated with the holidays so special. Their exclusivity to the season helps us get excited and geared up to enjoy them each year.

We have picked a handful of iconic holiday beverages for you to recreate. While you may find exquisite renditions of these at a bar or restaurant, why leave the comfort of your home if you can make something just as good, if not more delicious.

 

Eggnog

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The exact origins of eggnog are up for debate, but most tend to agree the beverage is a derivative of a medieval British concoction – posset. Over the centuries, eggnog took shape and became associated with the holidays in 1700s America. The colonies had a plentiful stock of cows and chickens, resulting in an abundance of milk and eggs. The drink was popular enough that George Washington even wrote down his own recipe for eggnog. The origins of the name are still a bit murky, but by the late 1800s, the name eggnog was solidified.

Eggnog is a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, alcohol and some freshly grated spices. Countries from many parts of the world have their own versions of eggnog. Most variations center on what alcohol and milk options they use. In the U.S., we tend to see eggnog mixed with either bourbon, rum or brandy.

If alcohol doesn’t strike your fancy, eggnog can also be made without a potent potable. Simply leave it out of any recipe and taste for adjustments such as additional sweetener or vanilla.

 

Wassail

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Wassail, a hot mulled cider, also comes from medieval England. Wassail was traditionally consumed on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night. Wassailing is the tradition of going room to room or house to house offering drinks from the wassail bowl along with cheers, toasts and songs.

Wassail bowls became very intricate, some coated in silver and large enough to hold 10 gallons of the warm beverage. The tradition continued to develop as people creating a carol to sing while serving the drink.

Wassail combines apple cider, spices and sometimes alcohol. The mixture is slowly heated, allowing the spices to steep and impart flavor into the rest of the beverage. Recipes vary drastically between households, but these tend to be the base ingredients. Variations see the inclusion of orange juice or cranberry juice.

The alcohol in this recipe can easily be left out and is purely optional for those who wish to imbibe in some wassail with a little more potency.

 

Hot Buttered Rum

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When American colonists began importing molasses, distilleries began popping up in the Northeast. Rum became the go-to alcohol for many colonists and the spirit started showing up in toddies, an English drink made from sugar, water and spices.

The drink became closely associated with the holiday season due to its warming properties on a cold winter’s day. The spices invoke traditional flavors surrounding the holidays while the distilled spirit brings a warm numbing effect. Add in the richness from the butter and the temperature of the drink, and you’ve got yourself a drink that will warm both your body and soul. Hot Buttered Rum is comfort food in a cup.

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Written by Daniel Puma

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Advent calendars have been a time-honored holiday tradition since the early 1800s. They grace store shelves every year as Christmas approaches. Children, with snowballing anticipation, open the date’s corresponding compartment as the days countdown. What’s the story behind these chocolate filled calendars? When did they come into existence and what is their purpose?

Advent is a season observed by many people of the Christian faith in the lead up to Christmas. It is believed Lutherans began the tradition of counting down the days of advent using a special calendar. Early versions of the season’s calendars used chalk marks or candles to represent each day. Over time, they morphed into similar versions we see today, a series of numbered windows or doors that are opened each day through Christmas Eve.

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When the windowed versions of advent calendars first came into existence, they held bible verses or important words and phrases. Over the years, advent calendars started including pieces of chocolate along with the traditional messages. Advent calendars printed on cardboard for mass production began in the early 1900s in Germany. Production stopped during WWII, but quickly resumed afterwards. Since then, commercially produced versions of the calendar have been a popular tradition for many households during the holiday season.

Today, advent calendars are not solely a Christian construct. They aim to appeal to anyone wanting to countdown from Dec. 1 to Christmas. The calendars have countless designs including sports, traditional Christmas themes, children’s toys and even Star Wars. Here at Schnucks, we sell advent calendars for kids with themes such as Frozen and Paw Patrol. While chocolate is most commonly found in mass-produced advent calendars, the modern world has seen numerous gifts and prizes designed to match the theme of the calendar.

Lego has been producing advent calendars in which each day, figures and accessories are hidden behind the door. When combined they complete the set featured on the box. There are digital advent calendars where a new tool for computer programmers and web designers is revealed each day. Some grown-up versions include different types of whiskey, makeup, craft beer and jewelry.

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The creativity behind these holiday calendars has exploded in the last 20 years. Now, there seems to be an advent calendar for everything and they can come in any shape, size and design. Who wouldn’t like getting a small gift every day? It’s fun for kids and adults, knowing that each day, there is something new hidden behind a door for you to enjoy. Additionally, each door that opens means it’s another day closer to Christmas.

If you want to give someone the advent calendar experience, but don’t care to buy a commercial advent calendar, try making your own. Stop by Schnucks and pick up an assortment of candy, coffee, hot tea, wine, beer, soda or any other item of variety. Customize it to the person you love and enjoy watching them open each day with fervor and enthusiasm.

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Written by Daniel Puma

We’ve taken a good portion of the creativity load off your shoulders and came up with these recipes perfect for utilizing those leftovers. Depending on what you chose to make and serve at Thanksgiving may require a little bit of adaptation to these recipes. That’s ok though! The recipes you see below are meant as guidelines and can be customized to match your leftovers.

Carved Turkey

If your family is anything like mine, our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs – especially when it comes to Thanksgiving. After waist bands have been stretched and food comas have ceased, the age old question remains; what to do with the leftovers.

As great as the Thanksgiving meal may be, eating it for three days in a row can quickly zap the joy and excitement of holiday meals. The best way to break out of the rut while ensuring nothing goes to waste is implementing some creativity to the post-holiday meal plan and adapting to what’s available.

By using these recipes as a guideline, you will use up all of those Thanksgiving leftovers in no time while never being bored for your next meal.

 

Turkey Pot Pie Cone

Chicken pot pie is one of those dishes that warms the soul on a chilly day. I think many of us could use a soul warming on black Friday. Using the turkey and vegetables from your leftovers, make this unique approach to pot pie by filling it into a delicious homemade cone. It’s a cornucopia of ooey, gooey, tryptophantastic bliss.

 

Christmas on a Bun

Cranberry Burger

Homemade cranberry sauce is a thing of beauty. It’s hard to even compare the real thing with canned versions. Think of homemade cranberry sauce as a slightly tart jam. The sweet, tartness of cranberry sauce is the perfect ingredient to cut through the fat on a thick juicy burger loaded up with toppings. This is a great base recipe but feel free to customize it with other cheeses and vegetables you may have on hand. If you still have lots of dinner rolls, turn this recipe into sliders instead of getting new buns.

 

Open Face Turkey Melt

Turkey Melt

Sandwiches tend to be the easiest option of utilizing Thanksgiving leftovers. There are thousands of combinations out there to make a great sandwich; just don’t fall into the same rut as every year. In this recipe, each ingredient from the creamy melted brie to the aggressive Dijon mustard meld together for a symphony of opposite textures and flavors.

 

White Turkey Chili

White Turkey Chili

Does anything warm you up faster on a cold day than chili? This white chili utilizes leftover turkey and doesn’t skimp on the flavor with spices straight from the southwest; roasted green chili peppers, cumin and cilantro. For an extra treat, toast up some dressing or stuffing and use as a few crunchy croutons to add some texture.

 

Turkey Club Pizza

Turkey Club Pizza

Incorporating a few fresh ingredients with the leftover ones can go a long way to making a dish feel bright and vibrant. Combining leftover turkey and vegetables with fresh tomatoes and avocado make this club pizza a delicious option for those post-holidy meals.

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Written by Daniel Puma

Thanksgiving is coming up fast, and it’s time to consider how to prepare your dinner’s coup de grace, the big kahuna, the showstopper – The Thanksgiving Turkey.

Many families have a long line of turkey recipes, passed down from generation to generation. A few families like to buck the norm, hence the rise in popularity of the deep-fried turkey. There are so many wonderful options and it’s tough to go wrong with a tried and true recipe, but is your turkey the best it could be?

I think we can all agree on what is most desired in a successfully cooked bird; flavorful, tender and juicy meat. Additionally, I think we can agree that the most common complaint about improperly cooked turkey is dryness.

I suggest brining. In one fell swoop, this simple preparation method will increase the moisture content and flavor of the meat in your centerpiece dish. How is this possible? What is brining and how does it work?

A brine is a saline solution, and brining is the extended submersion of a protein in said solution. The solution affects the protein fibers in the bird and through the process of osmosis (thank you 10th grade science class), allows the muscle fibers to absorb some of the solution. Not only is this absorption beneficial to the moisture content in the meat, but whatever flavors present in the solution are absorbed as well.

Slicing Turkey

Boom! Moisture and flavor problems solved with one method. The cooking method is going to withdraw approximately the same amount of moisture whether the turkey is brined or not. By starting off with additional moisture on the cellular level, we ensure there will be additional moisture in the meat after it has finished cooking.

There is an endless amount of brine recipes for turkeys, and they are easily customizable to your flavor preferences. But there are some common measures to keep in mind.  It is important to balance the salt content with sugar. If you only use salt your bird will end up entirely too salty. Additionally, if you use iodized salt, the bird will take on too many metallic flavors and the iodine will shine through. I’ve never heard anyone use iodine as a positive flavor descriptor. A balance between non-iodized salt and a sugar product (sugar, honey, agave syrup, fruit juices, etc.) will result in a perfect harmony.

Salt and Sugar

When making a brine, the salt and sugar is dissolved using heat. It is a bad idea to immediate pour this boiling hot liquid on the bird to start brining, this would result in parts of the bird cooking and the entire concoction coming into the temperature danger zone, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. Most brines are made at a concentrated level and then rapidly cooled with lots of ice. This brings the temperature down, while also adding water to the solution and reducing its concentration.

The last obstacle to overcome is how to fully submerge your turkey into the brine without having to make gallons upon gallons of the solution. The goal is to have the liquid surrounding the bird. Popular options are to use a very large stock pot or a five-gallon bucket from your local hardware store.

Stock Pot

After an overnight soak in the solution, take the turkey out of the brine and completely dry the surface. Coat the skin in a fat like oil or butter and roast your bird like you normally would each year, as long as the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 °F in the thickest part of the thigh (the internal temperature will continue to rise to the required 165 °F as the bird rests before cutting).

The possibilities for flavor combinations are nigh infinite for your brine. Find that base recipe and start tweaking, adjusting and playing with it until you find the flavor profile best suited for you and your family’s taste buds.