Friday, December 21, 2012

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: Angel Tree & Baroque Crèche at The Met Museum + Best Holiday Dinner Ever!

"Angel" Date: 18th–19th century, Italian (Naples) Medium: Polychromed terracotta head; wooden limbs and wings; straw and various fabrics; silver-gilt censer


A Nativity scene under the Christmas tree
with angels swirling upward to the crowning star.
In front of a Spanish choir screen.


ART: 
Met Tree & Crèche
Nativity: attributed to Salvatore di Franco, late 18th–early 19th century, Italian (Naples)
Medium: Polychromed wood and terra cotta, cloth, straw, leather, metal, paper, cork, Polychromed terracotta heads with wooden limbs; body of wire wrapped in tow; various fabrics; silver-gilt halo and staff

The Angels & Crèche around The Met Tree are some of the most "awe-inspiring" Christmas decorations you will ever see displayed!

The Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque crèche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a long-standing yuletide tradition in New York City and will be on view at the museum through January 6, 2013. The brightly lit, 20-foot blue spruce has a collection of 18th-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs hovering among its boughs and the a majestic crèche, at its base, is a crowd pleaser. Again this year, the tree is in the Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall located in front of a large, 18th-century Spanish choir screen. As you view the tree and crèche, Christmas music plays in the background and the whole experience reflects the best of the Christmas season.

Painted Portrait of crèche collector & donor,
Loretta Hines Howard
The museum's Christmas display was created through a gift from the late Loretta Hines Howard, who collected the more than 200 crèche figures, angels and animals starting in the mid 1920's. Mrs. Howard conceived the idea of this elaborate Nativity scene under the Met's Christmas tree with angels swirling upward to the crowning star.

The display was first presented to the public in 1957, and since 1964, more than two hundred 18th-century Neapolitan crèche figures have been given to the Museum by the Hines Howard family. Linn Howard, Mrs. Howard’s daughter, worked with her mother for many years on the annual installation. Following her mother’s death in 1982, Linn continued to create new settings by adding more figures to the collection. Andrea Selby, Linn's daughter, follows the tradition and now joins in the creation of this display each year.

The Tree's Angels and the Cherubs
The towering tree is adorned with some 50 gracefully suspended angels and cherubs hovering over the Nativity. Below are a few examples.


















The Neapolitan Baroque Crèche
The landscape at the base displays the figures and scenery of the Neapolitan Christmas crib. This display mingles three basic elements that are traditional to 18th-century Naples: the Nativity, with adoring shepherds and their flocks; the procession of the three Magi and their exotically dressed retinue of Asians and Africans; and, most distinctively, a crowd of colorful townspeople and peasants representing lifelike characters with intriguing facial expressions. The theatrical scene is enhanced by a charming assortment of animals—sheep, goats, horses, a camel, and an elephant—and by background pieces that create a dramatic setting for the Nativity, including the ruins of a Roman temple, several quaint houses, and a typical Italian fountain with a lion’s-mask waterspout. 

Below are just a few examples of the 200+ figures and animals in the Crèche. 

















The Christmas custom of restaging the Nativity is traditionally credited to Saint Francis of Assisi. The employment of man-crafted figures to reenact the events reached its height of complexity and artistic excellence in 18th-century Naples, where local families, often assisted by professional stage directors, vied to out-do each other in presenting elaborate crèche displays. The high artistic estimation of the genre is evidenced in works of the finest sculptors of the period—including Giuseppe Sammartino and his pupils Salvatore di Franco, Giuseppe Gori, and Angelo Viva—who were called on to model the terracotta heads and shoulders of the extraordinary crèche figures. The Howard collection includes numerous works attributed to these as well as to other prominent artists of that time. 



A view of the Angel Tree's other side.
(Source: Photos coutesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, text information from The Met Museum press department.)
Postscript: 
Another crèche collected by Loretta Hines Howard can be found in the Met's neighboring state of Connecticut. Every year thousands of people find their way to the 300-year-old hand-crafted nativity scene named “Pax Crèche”. It is on display in a white clapboard barn (in a climate-controlled exhibition case) on the grounds of the Abbey of Regina Laudis monastery, a home for cloistered Benedictine nuns. This monastery and treasured crèche is fittingly located in Bethlehem, CT, a tiny town in western Connecticut. The crèche was donated to the abbey in 1949 by Mrs. Howard as a memorial to her deceased husband.

(Source: Smithsonian Magazine.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/A-Creche-Reborn.html#ixzz2Fncm01K2 )

FOOD
The Best Holiday Meal
I have ever eaten!
This menu comes to ARTSnFOOD via The Latture Family cookbook. Every recipe was designed by Hazel Latture and prepared/perfected over the years by her daughters Ann, Jamie, Carol and Cindy. This meal is both company impressing fancy and down home comfort food. By any definition it is a pleasure to see on the buffet table, on your plate and to eat. Luckily, I have had the pleasure of sharing this meal with them at least once a year, for many years.



MENU:
- The Best Ever Turkey
- Turkey Gravy, with or without giblets
- Latture Deviled Eggs
- Asparagus Almondine
- Momma’s Dressing
- 24 Hour Salad
- Ann's Cranberry Salad
- Mashed Potatoes
- Praline Yam Casserole with Orange Sauce
or alternate: Baked Fruit and Vegetable Casserole
- Nan’s Cornbread
- Dinner Roles
- Pickled Relish Tray
- Mandarin Orange Cake
& Classic Pecan Pie
Iced Tea (Sweet & Unsweet)
Coffee

RECIPES:

The Best Ever Turkey

1 Turkey, thawed (no fancy turkey, just the basic turkey)
1 Stick Butter, softened
Salt/Pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove turkey from refrigerator.  Remove plastic covering, giblets and the pop-up thermometer from the turkey.

Wash turkey inside and out with warm water.  Dry thoroughly with paper towels, being careful to dispose properly of the towels.  Massage turkey with butter on all sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and massage into turkey.

Put turkey into a low, open baking dish.  Truss the legs with the tail.  Put a small amount of water into the bottom of the pan.  Bake turkey for 30 minutes, then turn thermometer to 350 degrees until thermometer into the meaty part of the thigh and the breast reads 165 degrees.

Remove turkey as soon as it reaches 165 degrees, let rest for at least 30 minutes.  You will have a beautifully browned bird, crisp skin and moist, tender meat.


Turkey & Cornbread Dressing
Turkey Gravy, with or without giblets

After cooking the turkey, remove it to a platter and tent with foil to keep it warm.

Separate the fat from the rest of the drippings in the turkey pan, reserving both the drippings and the fat.  

In a boiler, whisk ½ cup turkey fat with ½ cup flour until bubbly.  Measure the strained pan drippings, adding chicken stock if necessary to make 6 cups.  Stir constantly until desired consistency.  Season with turkey base (found in supermarkets), salt and white pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

If you want giblet gravy, cook the neck and all giblets except liver in a small amount of salted water until done.  Add liver about 15 minutes before giblets are done.  While giblets are cooking, boil 2 eggs.  Slice giblets, pick meat from neck, peel and slice hard boiled eggs and add to gravy just prior to serving.


Deviled Eggs, Pickled Relishes/Olives
& Yeasty Dinner Roles 
Latture Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs
Hellman’s mayonnaise
Bread and Butter pickles, minced
Onion, minced
Yellow Mustard
Salt
White pepper
Paprika

Boil eggs, cool and peel.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Carefully remove yolks, reserving whites.  Mash yolks adding a little mayonnaise, a dab of mustard, a little bit of minced pickles, onion, salt and pepper to make a thick paste.  Using a teaspoon, over-fill egg whites with egg yolk mixture or pipe into whites with a pastry bag.  Sprinkle with paprika.  

Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus Almondine,
Ann's Cranberry Salad & 24 Hour Salad.

Asparagus Almondine

2-3 cans green asparagus spears, drained and juice reserved
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup juice drained from asparagus
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spray oblong casserole dish with Pam

Lay asparagus in casserole.  Mix mushroom soup with water and pepper, pour over the asparagus.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Mix bread crumbs with melted butter, sprinkle over grated cheese.  Dot with almonds.  Bake 45 minutes.  Serves 8.

"Momma’s Dressing"

1 bunch celery
3 yellow onions
1 stick butter
4 recipes of Momma’s Cornbread
1 loaf white bread
Pecans, chopped
Boiled eggs, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
Chicken broth
Poultry Seasoning & Sage (easy on the P.S. &  Sage, not "too much")

Finely chop celery and onion.  Melt butter in a large skillet, add the celery and onion.  Cook until soft.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, crumble cornbread and tear white bread into small pieces.  Add cooled celery/onion mixture.  Add boiled eggs and pecans to your taste.  Moisten with chicken broth.  Season with poultry season, sage, salt & pepper (warning: be cautious with the poultry seasoning and sage, it is easy to over season).  Mix in beaten eggs.  Place in baking pan sprayed with Pam.  Bake until knife inserted into the center come out clean.

24 Hour Salad

2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups halved light sweet cherries (Mother leaves these out)
2 cups pineapple tidbits
2 cups mandarin orange sections
2 cups halved seedless grapes (I prefer black or purple grapes)
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Combine eggs, vinegar and sugar in the top of a double boiler, cook over low heat, beating constantly, until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat, add butter and cool.

Fold in fruit, marshmallows and whipped cream.  Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.


"Ann's Cranberry Salad"

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lemon

Cook all together until berries pop.  

Dissolve 1 envelope (2 if juicy) of plain gelatin in ¾ cup hot water (moisten first in cold water).  Add to berries.  

Refrigerate.

After this begins to set, add:
1 finely chopped apple
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped pecans

Spray mold with Pam, fill with cranberry mixture and refrigerate until set.


Mashed Potatoes

Peel russet potatoes, dice, put in a boiler with salted water to cover.

Boil until fork tender.

Drain potatoes, put in mixer bowl.  Add butter and milk to desired consistency, season with salt and pepper.  Do not over beat.


Praline Yam Casserole with Orange Sauce, Mashed Potatoes


Praline Yam Casserole with Orange Sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Praline Yam Casserole:  Bake 4 medium Louisiana yams on a foil lined baking sheet until tender.  Peel and quarter yams; beat with paddle beater of a stand mixer.  Beat in 2 eggs, ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1 teaspoon salt.  Spray a 1 quart casserole with Pam, turn potato mixture into casserole.  Arrange pecan halves in pattern over top.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, drizzle with ¼ cup melted butter.  Bake, uncovered, in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  

Orange Sauce:  Combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoons salt in a saucepan, add 1 teaspoon grated orange peel, 1 cup orange juice and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook until sauce is thickened, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 3 dashes angostura bitters.  Serve warm orange sauce over praline yam casserole.  

If you need multiple recipes, make the potato yam casserole in single recipe batches, it keeps the potato mixture fluffy.  

Orange Sauce

¼ cup chopped green onions
1 orange, seeded and coarsely ground
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup orange marmalade
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup rum

Saute onions and orange in butter until tender; stir in reserved stock, marmalade, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly.  Stir in rum.

ALT: (Yam Casserole) Baked Fruit and Vegetable Casserole

3 pounds freshly cooked Candied Yams* (see attached recipe)
4 slices canned pineapple in syrup  (I substituted pineapple tidbits)
3 bananas sliced lengthwise (I cut each half in half across) 
1 large apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup raisins
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick butter or margarine
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup Triple Sec (left it out and people still loved it)

Drain yams and pineapple, reserving liquid.  Layer yams, pineapple, bananas, apple and raisins in a baking dish, sprinkling each layer with brown sugar.  In a saucepan, mix the liquid from the yams and the liquid from the pineapple.  Add butter, cinnamon and Triple sec.  Boil until reduced by half and pour over casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. 

*Candied Yams (for Baked Fruit and Vegetable Casserole)

3 pounds yams, peeled
1 stick butter or margarine
1 ½ cups water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch allspice
Pinch mace

Slice yams in half lengthwise if large; leave whole if small.  Put all ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil over fairly high heat.  Lift and rotate yams with a spatula as they cook to make sure they cook evenly on all sides.  Cook for about 25 minutes with lid ajar.  Drain and reserve liquid.




Nan’s Cornbread

1 cup white cornmeal (available at http://fallsmill.com/)
½ cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 egg
¼ cup oil
1 tsp salt
Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Put the oil in the iron skillet and put in the oven to heat up.
Stir other ingredients together. Add enough buttermilk to make a batter of the "right" consistency (thick but pourable).
Get the hot skillet out of the oven and pour the (hot) oil into the batter.
Stir quickly and pour mixture back into the hot skillet.
Place skillet back in the over & bake 18 to 20 minutes.
Flip out crispy cornbread (called a wheel, loaf or pone of cornbread) onto a serving platter.
(Cornbread is cooked in an iron skillet reserved for cornbread, which is rinsed and gently dried, but NEVER washed with soap.)

Yields: 1 wheel = 6 to 8 pieces

Mandarin Orange Cake 

1 Box Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
¾ c. Vegetable Oil
4 Eggs
2 11oz. cans Mandarin Oranges (drain 1)
Mix cake mix, eggs, oil, and juice from 1 can of oranges.  Fold in oranges (Momma leaves them out).  Pour into 3 greased & floured cake pans.  Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes.  Cool and fill with frosting.

Frosting for Mandarin Orange Cake

Mix:
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1 small package instant vanilla pudding
1 (9 oz) Cool Whip
1 can Angel Flake Coconut (1 1/3 cups)

Mix together and fill between layers and to top and sides.  Keep refrigerated.  It is better if made a day ahead.

Above recipes are protected 
under the copyright of 
www.ARTSnFOOD.blogspot.com, 
please do not re-publish 
without written permission.


Until later,
Jack

ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness, the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved. Concept, Original Art, Text & Photographs are © Copyright 2012 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All gallery, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

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