Saturday, December 16, 2017
Cooking

Throw a Harry Potter-themed holiday party with these treats

Just once, I'd like to have a Hogwarts Christmas. Is it too much to ask for enchanted snow to fall from the ceiling of a Great Hall while we all feast on flaming Christmas pudding and mince pies? When will my suits of armor come to life and sing carols? And how long must I wait for Mrs. Weasley's homemade fudge and mince pies?

Unless our Hogwarts acceptance letters arrive by owl, it looks like we'll be celebrating yet another Christmas in the Muggle world. But we can still re-create the magic of a Hogwarts Christmas by celebrating the season, Harry Potter-style. Invite your closest friends, budding wizards and witches, and all the house-elves you know to a party that features Harry and Co.'s favorite holiday treats.

How to cook the main course (without the assistance of house-elves)

Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce . . . — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Don't worry, you won't need a hundred roast turkeys for your Christmas dinner. Since you aren't feeding an entire school full of hungry young wizards and witches, one will do just fine. But what are "platters of fat chipolatas"? Turns out, they are small savory sausages favored by the British as a side dish. We've found a recipe for chipolatas drizzled in a honey mustard glaze that's so easy to make, you won't even need a house-elf to help you.

We can't forget Harry's favorite part of the meal: the flaming Christmas pudding. (It's traditional to hide a silver sickle in the pudding, but for your dental safety — Ron's brother Percy nearly chipped a tooth — our recipe doesn't include any coins.) Topped with creme fraiche, it's no wonder Harry and Ron devoured helping after helping.

Finally, since we can't make it over to the Three Broomsticks for some butterbeer, we'll have to content ourselves with Hogwarts eggnog. Spiked with bourbon, this drink is practically bewitched. (No wonder Hagrid loves it so much.)

How to decorate (without the help of a wand)

The Great Hall looked magnificent. Not only were there a dozen frost-covered Christmas trees and thick streamers of holly and mistletoe criss-crossing the ceiling, but enchanted snow was falling, warm and dry, from the ceiling. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12

Since it's a bit hard to find magical snow at your local craft store, string up plenty of mistletoe instead. (That is how Harry received his first kiss from Cho Chang, after all.) To reproduce the picturesque atmosphere of Hogsmeade, hang a holly wreath on your door and line your dining table with lit candles. They may not be floating in enchanted trees, but they'll still add a warm glow to your gathering.

Before your guests arrive, set a Christmas cracker at each place. A traditional British party favor, these crackers are stuffed with small trinkets. You and a friend each pull one side of the cracker, until — with a loud bang! — the contents burst out for your enjoyment. Channel your inner Dumbledore and don whatever silly hat your cracker contains. (Unlike Harry, yours probably won't be filled with live mice. There are some advantages to a Muggle Christmas, after all.)

How to treat your guests (without the aid of Mrs. Weasley)

Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of home-made fudge. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Every Christmas morning, Harry wakes up to find his gifts appearing magically at the end of his bed. Would it be a Hogwarts Christmas without Mrs. Weasley's holiday parcels? Her handmade sweaters, painstakingly knitted for each of her loved ones, are a way of including Harry in the Weasley family. And each packet always contains some delightful sweet, like homemade fudge or mince pies. Mince pies are almost like small fruit tarts: They're made with mincemeat, which is a sweetened dried fruit mixture, and wrapped in flaky pastry. Serve the fudge and mince pies for dessert, or wrap them in brown paper parcels and give them, Mrs. Weasley-style, to your guests. Just like Harry, they'll feel extra loved.

How to keep your guests entertained (without caroling suits of armor)

Harry and the Weasleys spent a happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight in the grounds. Then, cold, wet and gasping for breath, they returned to the fire in the Gryffindor common room, where Harry broke in his new chess set by losing spectacularly to Ron. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Although we can't duplicate the enchantments of Hogwarts, we can still conjure up the cozy atmosphere. Since you can't take your guests outside for a snowball fight, head for a walk along the sugar sand beaches. Toast marshmallows over a fire. Play chess. Sing Christmas carols with as much merriment as Dumbledore. Open mysterious parcels that end up being magical invisibility cloaks, Firebolts or Marauder's Maps.

And if you're really lucky, maybe you'll find a Hogwarts acceptance letter under the tree.

Comments
Five trendy gift ideas for the cook in your life

Five trendy gift ideas for the cook in your life

Giving the gift of cooking isn’t really something you can mess up. Whether gifting a gadget or paying for a class, you can encourage a budding culinary enthusiast or give a seasoned veteran a new toy to play with. Here are five ideas for holiday gi...
Published: 12/13/17
Four ideas for edible gifts you can find throughout Tampa Bay

Four ideas for edible gifts you can find throughout Tampa Bay

Carlynn Crosby, Times correspondent Florida Pure Sea Salt Harvested from Tampa Bay’s waters, these handcrafted salts come in flavors like maple bacon, Sriracha, lemongrass, habanero or black truffle. They retail for $15 a jar online, at flor...
Published: 12/13/17
Six kitchen gadgets that are completely useless

Six kitchen gadgets that are completely useless

If you’re buying me a gift this year, don’t get me an Instant Pot. I’m serious. I don’t subscribe to the "you can never be too thin or too rich" school of thought, but the "you can never have too much kitchen cabinet space" is dead right in my book. ...
Published: 12/13/17
From the food editor: How to make perfect, hot Crispy Roasted Potatoes

From the food editor: How to make perfect, hot Crispy Roasted Potatoes

Sometimes, you just want a hot, crispy potato.I didn’t get home from work the other night craving a full dinner; I arrived at my house with cartoon visions of potatoes in my head, and knew I had to make it happen.I wasn’t looking for a fast food fren...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Party like it’s Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time

Party like it’s Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time

As a kid, I always looked for doors into other worlds. I blame Narnia. In C.S. Lewis’ classic novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four British children step through a magic wardrobe into Narnia, a world filled with talking animals and plenty ...
Published: 12/12/17
Cooking challenge: Making homemade edible Christmas gifts

Cooking challenge: Making homemade edible Christmas gifts

Should I infuse this vodka with bacon?That’s not a question I expected to ask myself on a Sunday morning, but here we are. This Christmas, I’m giving homemade gifts: infused liquor and chocolate fudge. But I didn’t realize it would be so hard to find...
Published: 12/12/17
Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

When the weather gets cooler, we want to tuck into comfort food in our home. Doing a recipe makeover on a tasty-but-less-than-healthy dish is one of my favorite challenges. Today, I’m taking on a wintertime classic with my Lightened Shepherd’s Pie. T...
Published: 12/08/17
Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

By MELISSA D’ARABIANSummer may officially be the season of green salads, but wintertime versions have advantages that make them worth exploring. The cooler weather seasonable greens are hearty and darker green, which makes them nutrient-rich. And, th...
Published: 12/08/17
My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

For the past 20 years, my family has looked forward to a boat parade party hosted by some of our dearest friends. The hostess provides cocktails, appetizers, dinner, desserts and a trombone choir to perform from a balcony overlooking her pool. My fav...
Published: 12/06/17
Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions

Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions

When we opened this year’s call for reader submissions to any treasured holiday food tradition, I had no idea what to expect. That was kind of the point. I wanted to see what such a wide gamut would inspire. And you delivered. The stories that reader...
Published: 12/06/17