Once upon a time in Dublin, there were three little children getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve. As soon as they were in their pyjamas, they laid out refreshments for Santa and his reindeers. The smallest one placed Baby Jesus in the manger and they each lit a candle in front of the crib. Their little voices sang “Away in a Manger” while Mum and Dad listened. Happy and full of excitement, they went upstairs and snuggled into bed.
Early on Christmas Day, they opened the stockings left by Santa Claus at the end of their beds. Shrieks of delight alerted their parents that they were about to be “woken” to see what Santa had brought. In this house, Santa always left the main present under the Christmas Tree, and nobody was allowed into the living room until breakfast was eaten and everyone was dressed. They were all beside themselves with delight.
On this particular Christmas morning, Dad went to light the fire in the living room and came back to report that Santa had indeed left presents under the Christmas tree. The children lined up in order of height, the door was opened and they rushed in to claim their presents. When all the excitement had died down, everyone noticed that something wasn’t quite right. The living room seemed to be….well….thrashed. Furniture was knocked over, the coal scuttle was on its side with coal spilt all over the hearth. Santa’s plate was on the carpet which was strewn with crumbs. What could have happened?
As the day went on, this became a subject of discussion and everyone came to the same conclusion- that Santa was so high on a sugar buzz that he was unco-ordinated and while not wanting to fault him, it seemed that Santa was out of control. Now the children were well familiar with sugar buzz behaviour as they remembered a previous Christmas Day when Santa had left selection boxes in their stockings. All three had eaten serious quantities of chocolate before the sun rose, and the day was out of control before it even began. None of them ate breakfast, they squabbled noisily all day, were rude to their grandparents and didn’t even enjoy their presents. Tears on Christmas Day ? There had to be a way to make sure that this never happened again.
So Mum and Dad swore that Christmas Day would always begin with a proper breakfast and that the children would have a proper lunch at midday with selection boxes afterwards. Santa clearly deserved the same type of meal-planning. How on earth could he deliver to all those households with only sugary fixes to keep him going? After all, every household that we knew left out their best, carefully chosen Christmas cake, Mince pies, Christmas cookies for his refreshment on his long journey. And the drink- how could Santa possibly consume all the whiskey, porter, beer etc left out for him without becoming a little bit tipsy? Somebody ought to leave out a hearty Irish midnight snack for him.
And so it came to pass that Santa found a warm baked potato wrapped in foil waiting for him when he came down the chimney in our house. The children had decided that he would probably like their favourite filling- chopped smoked bacon with grated cheddar cheese, with the option of a crushed bag of Tayto cheese and onion crisps sprinkled over. Mum had a great idea- while preparing Santa’s baked potato, she would also prepare some for the children to eat at midday on Christmas Day. Refrigerate them overnight, a quick turn in the microwave oven would re-heat them. That way, nobody would run amok.
Santa never thrashed the living room again. All that he left was some crumpled tinfoil. Clearly, he loved baked potato skins too!
And the children enjoyed every Christmas Day from that day on. No matter who visited or how late dinner was, nobody got cranky. Baked potatoes for Santa were a win/win solution for the whole family.
Santa’s Spuds- Recipe
-Potatoes, choose some with a lovely flavour- Maris Pipers, Golden Wonder. Roosters bake particularly well. Each child will eat two or three half potatoes. Make a few extra as adults with a drink in their hands will want one once they spot them.
– Smoked back rashers
– Grated cheddar
– A little milk
– Salt and Pepper
– Tayto cheese and onion crisps, one bag per person
– Set oven to 180°C
– Wash potatoes. Don’t peel.
– Pierce potatoes three or four times each. Place on a baking tray and bake at 180° for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. To check that they’re ready, put on an oven glove and squeeze them gently beween fingers and thumb. They will yield a little when cooked.
– Put smoked bacon rashers on a dry frying pan and heat slowly. When cooked on one side, turn and cook on the other side. Remove from pan. Cut off rind and excess fat, and chop. (then hide, as every passer by in the kitchen will want to nibble them)
– Grate cheese (and hide it too)
– Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little then cut in half lengthwise.
– Scoop out potato flesh into a bowl, keeping the potato skins intact. Mix with chopped rashers, grated cheese, a little butter, milk , salt and pepper. When you have the consistency you like, spoon the filling back into the potato skins. Sprinkle with some grated cheddar and return to the oven to bake again at 180°C for a further 15 minutes.
– Remove from the oven. Allow to cool,cover and refrigerate in a shallow dish.
Re-heat in a microwave oven.
( the regular oven will probably be full of turkey etc.)
Don’t use foil as it will damage your microwave oven.
Place cooked potatoes on a plate, uncovered and reheat at 750W for 4 minutes
Give a bag of crisps to each diner to crush in the bag and pour over the baked potatoes.
For Santa, once the baked potatoes are reheated, wrap them in foil to keep warm. Cover with a cosy tea towel to prevent any heat loss and leave beside the chimney with paper napkins.
Most children will eat two or three half potatoes. Santa ate four.
When the filling is eaten, smear some butter inside the crispy potato skins and munch.
After eating Santa’s spuds, everyone WILL have a Happy Christmas!
Beannachtaí na Féile!