Santa's feeling crabby!
I'm a sucker for Christmas traditions, but my all-time favorite is my family's Christmas Eve Dungeness crab feast. Somehow there's nothing that better expresses the simple pleasures of Christmas in California than a big pot of crabs and many bottles of champagne.
We keep it to just immediate family -- my daughter and her boyfriend, my brother- and sister-in-law and my wife and me. And we keep the menu simple -- when you've got great crab, all you need is a little something to nibble on first (sliced sausage, toasted almonds and Okie b-i-l's Rotel cheese dip), a good green salad and lots of Christmas cookies, persimmons and Kishu mandarins after.
One of my favorite parts of the meal is the shopping. This year, I went to the 99 Ranch in Gardena that's fairly near me. The scene was a panorama of California's Christmas celebrations -- the guy in line before me was a Nigerian buying live tilapia (to steam with red peppers, he told me); the Asian guy behind me was negotiating with his cute little boy, Giovanni, about whether to buy two crabs and two lobsters, or all crab, or all lobsters (oddly, Dungeness crab and Maine lobsters were exactly the same price this year); and the lady in front of me in the checkout line was an Australian buying oysters and lobster to make some kind of ceviche -- she wasn't quite sure exactly how but said she'd "follow the inspiration."
And a merry Cali Christmas to you too!
-- Russ Parsons
Photo credit: Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times