Decadent holiday feast

The holidays are made of rich memories–and matched with rich food. Three writers share stories on both

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  • Deep, rich, and luxurious, this mousse, inspired by a recipe from Isabel Allende, is a grand finale to a great meal. Use good-quality chocolate for the best flavor.

    chocolate mousse

    Annabelle Breakey; styling by Robyn Valarik

    Click to Enlarge

Christmas, Chilean American–style

by Isabel Allende

I am Chilean. I’m not fond of turkey, that insipid bird that doesn’t look appealing even when it’s alive. Twenty-three years ago, when I fell in lust with my current husband, Willie, and moved to California, I endured my first American Christmas with tasteless turkey and ... oh, Lord, brussels sprouts! I decided then and there to celebrate the following Christmas in high Chilean style, even if some ingredients would not be available, because December in the Southern Hemisphere is summer.

Willie thinks that he can cook and is fiercely protective of his kitchen, but for once he stepped aside and reluctantly allowed me to try my mother’s recipes. Christmas should be a spiritual gathering, but on this occasion I intended to shock him with an aphrodisiac culinary orgy.

I decorated the house and the table with fresh flowers and played Latin music instead of sugary carols. Our dysfunctional family and less dysfunctional friends arrived around 6 p.m., because no dinner should start before sunset, and I am not one to tolerate football on TV when a banquet is being offered. The party started with Chilean wines and our infamous pisco sour, strong enough to knock out a Cossack; small cheese empanadas; and prawns wrapped in crispy bacon.

When all except the toddlers were tipsy, I opened the buffet: a splendid Chilean seabass resting on a comfortable bed of garlicky spinach; roasted pork loin generously massaged with Dijon mustard and braised in milk; duck breasts patiently marinated in cherry liqueur with dried apricot relish; corn soufflé; potato casserole; and a couple of Chilean salads—tomatoes and finely sliced onions; and avocados with celery, green apples, and walnuts. The desserts were appropriately decadent and fattening. The crowning glory was a chocolate mousse à l’orange befitting the court of Marie Antoinette and likely one of the curses of the French Revolution. —Isabel Allende is the author of The House of the Spirits and other novels, as well as plays and stories for children. She lives in Marin County, California.

Recipe: Decadent Chocolate Mousse

Nutritional info? Don’t bother.

We want you to enjoy every last morsel of the extravagant foods we’ve created for you. Why ruin it with numbers, especially when they’d make a dietician’s head explode? As long as you don’t have medical issues, it’s okay to give in to temptation now and then, especially when the best Christmas dinner ever is on your table. Looking for the calories or sodium levels for these recipes? Click on any of the recipe links above to find them—but don’t say we didn’t warn you.


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