That's because they're both key ingredients in glogg, a traditional punch that's served in Swedish homes during the month of December. "There are a lot of mini-holidays in Sweden," explains the chef, 43, who was born in Ethiopia and adopted by Swedish parents. "We would go over to different friends and family members' houses for a five-course meal and somebody was always making glogg."
Samuelsson also loved assisting his grandmother in the kitchen when it was her turn to throw the party on Christmas Eve. He would help pickle herrings, bake ginger snap cookies and cook red cabbage and meatballs. By age 16, the award-winning chef was cooking the turkey on his own.
The rest of the day was devoted to roughhousing with his cousins and playing board games with his father and grandfather. "That's when I learned how to play chess and Monopoly," says Samuelsson. "I loved that I had time with my parents."
Today, Samuelsson and his wife Maya Haile, 30, continue the family tradition with a potluck dinner at their Harlem, N.Y., home for friends and staff from his restaurant The Red Rooster. And the hosts make sure that glogg is always on the menu. "It's sweet, delicious and as the night goes on it gets more spiked."
Swedish GloggServes 6
1 750 ml. bottle of dry red wine
1¾ cups tawny port
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
Peel of ½ orange
½ cup raisins
½ cup sliced almonds
1. Heat wine and port in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until just boiling, 7 to 8 minutes; stir in sugar until dissolved and remove from heat.
2. Tie cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves and orange rind in a piece of cheesecloth and add to hot liquid. Add raisins and almonds. Cover and steep for 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
3. Remove and discard spice bundle. Divide liquid, almonds and raisins among 6 mugs.