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A Chiasso Switzerland Christmas Feast

This is in reference to a key location (where i have a friend and have visited multipole times) in my Science Fiction Book: Watcher in the Fall: Connections

Chiasso Switzerland, in the southern part of Switzerland across the border from Lugono Italy (where Lake Como is located), is known for its rich and warm winter dishes around Christmas time.

The holiday meal kicks off with a cheese fondue, a creamy mix of melted Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois cheeses laced with white wine and a splash of kirschwasser cherry brandy. Everyone dips chunks of hearty bread into this cheesy delight for starters.

Then, the feast moves on to some much-loved Swiss specialties. There's Bündnerfleisch, this air-dried beef that's been seasoned to perfection and cut in super thin slices. You might also find Geschnetzeltes on the table; it's tasty strips of veal browned with mushrooms all in a lush cream sauce. These are usually served up with golden rösti, which is basically buttery, fried potato pancakes, alongside some tangy red cabbage.

Sweet tooth satisfaction comes next, with a silky chocolate mousse topped off with fluffy whipped cream and scrumptious chocolate shavings - not to mention the Italian Panettone (as Chiasso is in the Italian section of Switzerland), an indulgent fruit and nut cake brimming with sweet candied cherries that gives just a hint of a yeast flavor.

And now, here's the lowdown on making these traditional Chiasso Christmas eats:

Alpine Cheese Fondue

  • 1 lb Vacherin Fribourgeois (or Emmental) cheese, grated

  • 1 lb Gruyère cheese, grated

  • 1 clove garlic, halved

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 2 Tbsp kirschwasser (cherry brandy)

  • 1 tsp cornstarch

  • Pinch of pepper

  • Dash of lemon juice

  • Rustic bread cubes for dipping

Melt the cheeses together slowly with the wine and kirschwasser. Make a paste of the cornstarch with some wine and whisk into fondue once smooth and heated through. Stir in garlic, pepper, and lemon juice. Keep warm over low heat and serve immediately with bread for dipping.

Bündnerfleisch (Air-Dried Beef)

  • 2 lbs beef round or top round, sliced very thinly

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1⁄2 tsp black pepper

  • 1⁄2 tsp ground juniper berries

  • 1⁄2 tsp dried thyme

  • 1⁄2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Combine olive oil and spices in a small bowl. Using a cooking brush, coat both sides of the extremely thin beef slices with the spice mixture.

  2. Layer slices between paper towels. Place another layer of paper towels on top and gently pound meat with a meat mallet to make very thin and even.

  3. Arrange slices in a single layer on wire racks set over baking sheets. Refrigerate uncovered 12-36 hours, periodically re-brushing meat with leftover spice oil.

  4. To serve, carefully slice beef against the grain into long, thin strips. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature.

Geschnetzeltes (Veal in Cream Sauce)

  • 1⁄4 cup butter

  • 1 lb veal cutlets, thinly sliced

  • 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1⁄4 cup dry white wine

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, quickly brown the sliced veal for 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

  2. Add remaining butter, mushrooms and onion. Sauté 5 minutes until softened.

  3. Pour in wine and broth, scraping any browned bits in the pan. Simmer to reduce by half, about 5-7 minutes.

  4. Return veal and any juices to pan. Stir in cream and thyme. Heat through.

  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over rösti.

Rösti (Swiss Potato Pancake) Can be served as a side dish as described below.

If served as a main dish, use cheese-bacon or whatever you like inside like an omelet. Place an egg on the top when rösti are almost cooked not in the mixture.

  • 1 1⁄2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and grated

  • 3 Tbsp butter

  • 4 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded

  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

  • 1⁄2 tsp each salt and pepper

  1. Place grated potatoes into clean kitchen towel and wring out liquid. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in all remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined.

  2. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a 10 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Press potato mixture into the skillet, flattening the top. Fry 8-10 minutes per side until browned and crisp.

  3. Slice into wedges and serve hot.

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