I've made it to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve only a handful of times--I usually fall asleep. But my sister-in-law's family, being a bunch of night owls, have made it their tradition. For the O'Dohertys, the night doesn't end after Mass either; it's followed with a traditional Irish breakfast. The festivities continue until 3 or 4 in the morning.
And what happens Christmas morning--after the sun comes up, that is? "We just get up and do it all over again," says Joe O'Doherty, the patriarch of the family.
If you're inclined to fall asleep like me, try this breakfast in the daylight hours of the morning. Rashers, white sausage, black pudding and whole-meal flour can be found at Irish shops (try the Irish Import Store on Vine Street in Hollywood).
The menu is Irish-inspired but not completely traditional. Bram-Brack is traditionally served all over Ireland on Hallow's Eve, with charms and coins baked in the batter to tell the future. This fruit-sweetened version is a cross between a fruitcake and a soda bread, a worthy addition to Christmas.
One thing I forgot to mention: Whether you make this before or after the sun comes up, don't forget to leave a Guiness out for Santa.
Rashers, White Sausage and Black Pudding
Port and Tea
6 white pork sausages
1 (1/2-pound) package American bacon
1 (1/2-pound) package Irish back bacon
1/2 pound black pudding
6 baking potatoes
1 dozen eggs
1 (1-pound) package whole-meal flour
Day before: Prepare mashed potatoes for champ.
Night before: Prepare fruit mixture for brack.
3 hours before: Prepare brack.
30 minutes: Mold champ pancakes.
15 minutes before: Fry pancakes. Fry rashers, bangers and black pudding.
5 minutes before: Fry eggs.
Just before: Slice brack. Transfer food to platters. Set out Guinness for Santa Claus.
RASHERS, WHITE SAUSAGE and BLACK PUDDING
6 slices American bacon
8 slices Irish back bacon
1/2 pound black pudding
6 Irish white sausages or boudin blanc
Cook American bacon in skillet over medium heat, turning to brown evenly on both sides until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Fry Irish back bacon in bacon grease over medium heat, turning to brown evenly on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Cut black pudding into 1-inch-thick slices and place in bacon grease with white sausage. Fry over low heat, turning to brown evenly on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Makes 6 servings.
Each serving contains about:
487 calories; 749 mg sodium; 96 mg cholesterol; 48 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 0 fiber.
6 baking potatoes
2 large leeks, white part only
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Cut leeks lengthwise and slice thinly.
Boil potatoes in large pot with water to cover until tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat milk in saucepan with 3/4 cup butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add leeks and simmer until tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Strain mixture through sieve into bowl. Transfer leeks to another bowl.
Drain potatoes and transfer to large mixing bowl. Slowly add just enough warm milk mixture to make potatoes creamy, not too thin, and mash with electric mixer on low speed to desired consistency. Fold in leeks and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Champ may be made to this point 1 day ahead, chilled and covered.
Dust surface of cutting board with flour. Shape potatoes into patties about 1 inch thick and coat with flour.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and fry patties over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.
Makes 6 to 8 pancakes.
Each of 8 pancakes contains about:
287 calories; 276 mg sodium; 58 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.85 gram fiber.
1 cup currants
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups cold tea
1/4 cup rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup extra-coarse whole-meal flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced dried apricots
Combine currants, apricots, brown sugar, tea and rum in large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight.
Sift all-purpose and whole-meal flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into large mixing bowl. Add fruit mixture and stir well. Add egg and stir well.
Pour dough into greased 8x4-inch loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
Set pan on wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Turn cake out of pan and cool completely on rack.
Sift powdered sugar over top of cake before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf, about 12 slices.
Each slice contains about:
176 calories; 164 mg sodium; 18 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.79 gram fiber.
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Kitchen Tip / Meats of the Matter
"Rasher" is what the British call both a slice of bacon and a serving of several slices. But the bacon typically eaten in Ireland is much leaner than what we normally eat in the U.S. It's also sliced in thinner, wider pieces.
Black pudding, or blood sausage, is one of the oldest of the world's cooked meats, first cooked by the ancient Greek cook Aphthonetus, according to "Larousse Gastronomique."
The white sausage commonly served with rashers and black pudding is often sold as bangers in the U.S., although that term for sausage is never used in Ireland.