Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

With everything that’s occurred in 2020, I’m ready to write off the rest of the year and go straight to 2021. But even if we’re limited to gatherings of five or less, we can still make a little merry before closing out the year. And because that jolly old guy in the red suit probably won’t be making an appearance this year due to social-distancing restrictions, we can enjoy some festive red and green adornments instead.

One of my holiday traditions is to bring out my holiday socks after Thanksgiving. Many years ago, I dyed a whole pack of white tube socks with red and green Rit dye. The mismatched siblings make their appearance from the day after Thanksgiving, through Dec. 25. Then, they hibernate in my sock drawer until the following year.

An alternative to donning holiday apparel is to make dishes highlighting festive holiday colors. I found this appetizer recipe on the My Recipes website (myrecipes.com/recipe/loaded-baked-potato-dip) but reduced the cheese and increased the chopped chives. I frequently make this at home, using either the Enjoyably Yours fat-free or Daisy reduced-fat sour cream, along with reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese. But if you prefer the real McCoy, go ahead and forget the reduced-fat versions – it is the holiday season!

Loaded Baked Potato Dip

16 ounces sour cream

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 large bunch fresh chives, minced

1 package pre-cooked bacon

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Microwave the bacon just until it starts releasing the fat, then roughly chop. Once the bacon cools (so it doesn’t liquefy the sour cream), add it to the sour cream along with the cheese, chives and black pepper. Then mix thoroughly. The red from the bacon and green chives naturally give the mix holiday colors. Serve on crisscross-cut fries or potato chips.

Although Ryan’s Grill at the Ward Centre closed almost three years ago, I’m sure those who frequented the popular watering hole sampled the crab and artichoke dip with focaccia (as it was in business for 35 years). So even before Ryan’s closed, I perused the internet for how to make its crab dip and found this recipe published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin back in 2007:

2 cups king crab meat

2 cups mayonnaise

2 cups canned artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

2 cups grated parmesan cheese

1 onion, thinly sliced

However, the chef at the time acknowledged that the actual Ryan’s Grill recipe was proprietary. So the above Star Bulletin excerpt was not the exact recipe, as the chef stated that because his kitchen produced 80-pound batches at a time, even the exact recipe couldn’t be scaled down for home consumption. So, I came up with my own reasonable facsimile:

Baked Crab and Artichoke  Dip

1 package crab (6 to 8 ounces)

8 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup grated Swiss cheese

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 small bottle chopped and roasted red peppers

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Cayenne powder to taste

I usually don’t add the roasted red peppers and chives — but will do it in the spirit of the season. Mix all the ingredients, then place in a small baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Serve with toasted slices of focaccia, ciabatta or baguettes.

Everyone probably knows what bread pudding is — cubed bread that’s soaked in a mixture of milk or cream and eggs plus sugar, spices and other sweets, then baked to a custardy texture, usually served for dessert. But did you know that you can combine the same bread, milk or cream and eggs to create a savory dish that’s served as a main or side dish? This one-dish strata, or savory bread pudding, is simple to prepare. And because it contains protein and carbohydrates, this dish can function as your main course alongside a salad. And the roasted red pepper and spinach give it that   holiday red and green.

Strata Italiano
Strata Italiano. (Photo by Ryan Tatsumoto)

Strata Italiano

About 4 to 6 cups of ½” cubed stale bread

1 package of fresh Italian sausage, or 4 to 5 links, with casing removed then cooked until brown

1 one-pound package of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted

6-to 8-ounce bottle of roasted red peppers, chopped

4 cups milk

5 eggs, beaten

About 1 cup shredded white melting cheeses (mozzarella, fontina, and/or provolone)

About ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Toss the cubed bread with sausage, spinach, red peppers, cheeses and herbs/seasonings. Mix the eggs with the milk then pour over the bread mixture and let sit for at least 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed into the bread. Sprinkle a little bit of grated Parmesan over the top, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until the custard mixture (liquids) are set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Finally, the holiday season isn’t complete without a holiday libation. But I’ve never really cared for egg-nog which simply tastes like melted French-vanilla ice cream spiked with booze. How about a white chocolate candy cane instead? I’ll call this Santa’s Medicine…

Christmas Libation


1 ounce Horchata rum and cream liqueur

1 ounce Godiva white-chocolate liqueur or Bailey’s liqueur

½ ounce Peppermint Schnapps

1 drop red food coloring

1 drop green food coloring

Add ice to a cocktail shaker, mix the three liqueurs and shake or swirl until well chilled. Pour into a wide cocktail glass (coupe). Add the drops of food coloring, then use a toothpick and swirl to create your own red and green design.

Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (nichibei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).


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