Never the same twice; that's Christmas in my family. This year, everyone is gathering on Christmas Eve in my tiny apartment; we'll be packed in wall to wall, using every available flat surface as dining tables, and everything that can remotely be considered seating pressed into service. The house is cleaned, the decorations are up but don't intrude on the space, dishes sorted, breakables removed from the reach of tiny hands, menu planned and shopping done. The turkey is in the freezer, the hall closet emptied, waiting for jackets ... I think I'm ready.
The meal will start out as a traditional Canadian Christmas dinner; roast turkey, backed potatoes in their jackets, homemade cranberry sauce, several veggies, a salad. But then we go off the rails. There will be cornbread and Mexican hot sauce. My son is bringing something unnamed, probably a Punjabi dish. For dessert, there's Mexican flan and assorted cheeses. And we'll end with Café de olla, Mexican coffee.
Here's the recipe, as we make it:
In a clay pot*, bring water to a boil, one cup per person. Add one cinnamon stick per cup of water, and simmer for a few minutes to bring out the flavour. If you have piloncillo, the traditional Mexican sugar, add it at this time, and simmer until it disolves. If not, substitute brown sugar or unrefined sugar; you may add this now or later, to taste.
While this simmers, grind well-roasted dark coffee beans, to a medium grind, and measure out one tablespoon of the ground coffee per person into a bowl.
Depending on how long you have simmered the sugar and cinnamon, you may need to top up the water to the original level. Bring to a boil again, and remove from heat. IMMEDIATELY add the coffee, all at once. Stir it down if it foams, and cover it with a lid for about 5 minutes.
Add sugar to taste, and serve from the clay pot with a ladle, pouring it through a fine strainer into clay mugs, if you have them.
Possible additions; semi-sweet baker's chocolate, to taste, simmered with the cinnamon. Or a few cloves, just enough to give a hint of spiciness.
*The coffee can be prepared in a glass saucepan, but it will not have the earthy flavour of coffee made in an olla.