Sara Moulton's New Holiday Traditions

Moulton's recipe for potato pancakes with salmon. (Lisa Hubbard/Getty Images.)

Sara Moulton shares her favorite holiday traditions:

"Every year on Thanksgiving day I appear on 'GMA' to cover Turkey 9-1-1 and answer all those 11th-hour questions. Then I go home and heat up short ribs of beef (prepared several days ahead) for my family.

I roast a turkey at other times of the year, usually to try out some new method so that I can report accurately the next time I am on 'GMA,' but I never roast one on the usual day. Why? It started because I wanted to focus on my TV appearance, not on making a big meal. But, actually, my family doesn't really like turkey, so I figured why bother? I feel a little bad about it. This year, I said as much at the meal, and my brother (one of the turkey haters) said, "Don't feel bad, short ribs are our new tradition." Hmm, good point.

It made me realize that we have other new traditions. My husband, a nice Jewish boy from Detroit, makes a Christmas compilation CD every year because he gets tired of listening to all the usual music that is part of my holiday.  He combs the globe all year long in search of unusual holiday tunes which means that we are listening to holiday music all year long (it's July 4th weekend, it's 104 degrees out, we are driving to the country and he is blasting, Ray Charles and Betty Carter singing, "Baby, It's Cold Outside.")

These Xmas Jollies, as he calls them, have become rather popular in a very large circle of family and friends. Many of them play the Xmas Jollies for the first time when they are decorating their tree.  That is their new tradition.

Our newest ritual, invented by my niece, Katie, age 24 and nephew, Peter, age 21, is the Christmas Eve appetizer competition. We share a farmhouse in Massachusetts with my aunt and uncle and their kids and their kids' kids and now there are so many of us we have to switch off being at the farm.

One year my uncle's family gets to stay there and the next year we do. But we always touch base with each other and several years ago we started this Christmas Eve cook off. We compete to see who is making the greatest number of appetizers. There is no prize, there is no judge.  It really makes no sense.

 But everyone, in both families, loves to eat and we have quite a few amazing cooks, including my cousin, Josh, who is also a professional chef.  I think we might be up to 20 appetizers, some of which my niece and nephew start preparing right after Thanksgiving and pop in the freezer.

Many of our hors d'oeuvres come from my first cookbook, supplemented by Gourmet magazine recipes and others we have all picked up along the way. There are always baby egg rolls, something with smoked salmon (recipe below), mushroom rolls, dates stuffed with parmesan wrapped in bacon and baked, and raw oysters on the half shell. We eat them in place of dinner and call the other team frequently to find out how they are doing and what they are making. And taunt them.

Again, I am not really sure what is the point but I love eating this way. So many tastes in one evening. If you are getting together with a large group of people, I highly recommend this (but make it a potluck so the burden is off of you.)"

Try Sara Moulton's recipe for Smoked Salmon on Crispy Potato Pancakes.

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