Nibbles: How did the tangerine and the walnut get in my Christmas stocking?


By JOHN LEHNDORFF Colorado Table Editor
When Jean Bolger isn’t fiddling with Colcannon, Colorado’s acclaimed Celtic band, she sends a batch of quick almond toffee to friends. (Courtesy photo)

A stocking stuffed with goodies was the tastiest part of Christmas when I was growing up. I always got a tangerine and several whole walnuts which I never cracked. I always figured those were just stocking filler. Later, I found out they involved good fortune in the coming year.

Lehndorff stockings always included a yellow mesh bag of chocolate coins, which may have migrated from Hanukkah. Besides the cool little toys, Ice Cube chocolate squares, pens and a silver dollar, Mom’s Italian roots meant we found soft torrone nougat candy and, because it was New England, maple sugar candy. I always got at least one chocolate-covered cherry cordial.

It was so crammed with stuff that it kept us kids busy while the grownups groped for consiousness on Christmas morn. Of course, by then we were on a sugar high and ready to rip open boxes. Now that I am a mature, experienced adult, I’m grateful I still get a stocking every Dec. 25 — the tastes fly me home, and filling the stockings is the last thing I do every Christmas Eve and it’s still a thrill.

Does everybody get the same stuff in their stockings? I asked some friends to share what they always got and the question sparked some cool memories:

• “I grew up in San Francisco so I always got a can of smoked oysters in my stocking.”

• “Brach’s chocolate-covered orange stix and the Lifesaver book — it opens to 10 rolls. Mmmm”

• “We still get little presents, pistachios, Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s, peppermint patties and a Lifesaver book. Don’t tell my mom that we dug into the pistachios already.”

• “Always had a large Hershey’s Kiss (softball size) and tube of Tootsie rolls. Both are my mom’s favorites …. hence the reason she put them in!”

• “We got an orange, apple, candy cane, pecans (I’m from Texas), and a Lifesaver book. I think the apple and the orange were filler, but I still put them in my husband’s stocking.”

• “On Dec. 6th, St. Nicholas Day, mom pinned socks to the couch. The sock included almonds and walnuts (in the shell), little chocolate wooden shoes and an orange. … One of the neighbors would dress as Santa and deliver candy canes to all the kids on the block. The dads offered Santa some holiday Wild Turkey. Santa required assistance to make it back to his own house, or at least that’s the way I remember it.”

• “We got an orange, the gold coins, a walnut with a dollar inside of it, and pistachios. I carried all of those on with my kids except the walnut.”

•  “An orange, an apple, a Hershey’s bar and walnuts which we never ate because we couldn’t find the nutcracker. So maybe we got the same walnuts year after year.”

FOOD NEWS UPDATE

OpenTable’s 2012 Top 100 Best Restaurants in the U.S. list includes two locals: Splendido (Beaver Creek) and the Palace Arms at The Brown Palace (Denver). … Colorado’s Smashburger recently opened its first Latin American location in San Jose, Costa Rica. … The Associated Press reports that a ski-up, on-mountain French Champagne bar will once again serve skiers on Aspen Mountain this season.

FIDDLING WITH TOFFEE

Colcannon, the dish, is an earthy melding of mashed potato and cabbage with cream, butter and more.
Colcannon, Colorado’s premier Celtic music ensemble for decades, calls Aurora home. Fiddler Jean Bolger recently shared her recipe for simple almond toffee in the band’s newsletter: “I make many, many batches of this every year at Christmas with the intention of giving it as gifts, but a good portion of it never leaves the house.” She promises it’s one of the easiest holiday treats you’ve ever tried to make. Bolger and Colcannon performs a special Boxing Day show Dec. 26 at Denver’s Mercury Café. Information: colcannon.com.

Jean’s Microwave Almond Toffee
12 tablespoons butter (a stick and a half of regular salted butter)
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate preferred)

Line an 8-inch-square pan with foil. Put the sugar and butter in a biggish microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for about 3 minutes, then whisk it until it’s blended. Back in the microwave it goes, this time for about 4 minutes. Now stir in the almonds and pop it back in the micro.
Cook it about 2 to 4 minutes more. This is where the timing gets a little tricky. In my microwave, which is not super powerful, it takes about three more minutes — you may have to experiment.
Using a spatula, pour it into the foil lined pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over it. When they’ve melted, spread the chocolate evenly with a spatula. You might want to save a few chopped almonds to sprinkle on the top. Let it cool completely before serving. Note: Almonds can be dry-roasted beforehand to add extra flavor.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“There never was such a goose. … Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration. Edged out by applesauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family … and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows.” — From “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

Read more Nibbles at aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Be sure to “like” the Nibbles Facebook page. John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and kgnu.org).

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