Ever wonder what Grand Rapids’ chefs do for the holidays? GR|MAG spoke with chef Jenna Arcidiacono, of Amore Trattoria Italiana, to find out what she’ll be cooking this year.
GR|MAG: What’s on your menu for the holiday?
JA: At home, we like to pick a different country each year and make the cuisine from that region. Last year we chose Korean! We haven’t picked our theme for this year yet.
GR|MAG: What type of adult beverage do you like to pair it with it?
JA: My favorite way to start a meal is an Aperol Spritz. I put ice in my biggest glass then add Aperol, prosecco and an orange slice. It’s a beautiful color and the orange makes it feel like Christmas.
GR|MAG: What’s your favorite holiday song or film that gets you into the holiday spirit?
JA: I am a child of the 80’s so I love “Last Christmas” from Wham! & “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!” As far as movies, it’s not Christmas until I see “Elf,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the cartoon version of “The Grinch!”
GR|MAG: What’s a great appetizer to bring to a holiday party?
JA: I love bringing my copycat recipe of cheese dip from El Azteco in East Lansing (sour cream, cottage cheese, muenster cheese, cream cheese, green onions, jalapeños, cilantro and cumin) and homemade blue corn truffle chips.
GR|MAG: For those at home chefs out there, do you have any tips for planning a big holiday feast?
JA: If you can get organized and start prepping a few days before you will be doing yourself a huge favor. Don’t try to do everything in one day or you will burn yourself out. If you know the prep and cooking times for each dish you can organize your days better. Make lists, that helps! Ask your kids to help, too. Cooking is an important life skill that they will be glad you taught them.
GR|MAG: Are there any holiday food trends you are seeing or anything that might be fun for people to add to their holiday cooking this year?
JA: I feel like everyone has access to the Internet and there are all of these 30-second holiday food videos that get millions of views. A lot of people are looking for new ideas that are quick and inexpensive. If you are bringing a dish to pass at a party, try to make sure it’s easy to share. I love bringing cannoli chips and dip to parties because it looks beautiful, is easy to share and tastes great. Brussels sprouts are also everywhere. I love oven roasted Brussels sprouts that get crispy like little potato chips.
GR|MAG: If someone wanted to create a classic Italian Christmas meal, what are a few of the must-have food items?
JA: In Italy on Christmas Eve, they do the Feast of Seven Fishes. They save the meaty dishes for Christmas Day. They serve tortellini in brodo (in broth) for lunch as a lighter meal so they can pig out at dinner. Italians usually start with a huge antipasto platter, then have lasagna, lamb, potatoes, fennel salad and the one thing you can’t live without at Christmas is Panettone.
Panettone is the Italian’s version of fruitcake. It’s much more delicious and looks like and an enormous muffin. If an Italian ever gives you one as a gift, you should try it plain and then make French toast with the leftovers. It’s phenomenal.
*Photo courtesy of Chef Jenna Arcidiacono