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Christmas Day Meal

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pat hammond Dec 4, 2000 08:03 AM

Barely past Thanksgiving, I find myself, as usual, slouching toward Christmas.My traditional meal on that day has always been baked stuffed lobster. I'm interested to learn what other 'hounds prepare for this special meal. pat

  1. t
    Tom Steele Dec 4, 2000 10:54 AM

    To start Christmas Day, I make an AMAZING oatmeal for two cooking the oatmeal (Eric & Andy's Homegrown Organic Rolled Oats from Vermont--now pretty widely available in Manhattan, anyway) with three kinds of dried fruit, milk, butter, a bit of cream, and vanilla. It's a once-a-year tradition. And you're not hungry again until dinnertime. (Anyone want the recipe?)

    Dinner varies from year to year. Last year I did a standing rib roast that was amazing. And in a whirlwind of indulgence, we began with seared slices of foie gras with a lingonberry/port reduction. Just ridiculously delicious--and easy--but extremely expensive.

    This year, I'm thinking of roasting a goose. Barbara Kafka's recipe in ROASTING is easy and fast (she roasts everything at 500 degrees). But I may chicken out and do a duck instead (tee-hee). Sauteed salsify (if I can find it by month's end!) or a nicely crisped roesti for a side dish. Maybe red-wine-braised red cabbage. Maybe I'll do brussels sprouts moutarde again!

    I usually steam a (purchased) plum pudding for dessert, but if I can get one, I'm going to order a St. Tropez (a sort of Boston cream pie, but with thick creme anglaise filling) from Marquet, a splendid nearby bakery which also does buche de noel (but my signif. other is allergic to nuts).

    But if I have the money left after all the shopping is done, it's foie gras and caviar, laughing all the way!

    12 Replies
    1. re: Tom Steele
      l
      Lauren Dec 4, 2000 11:10 AM

      I think my family is going fairly traditional this year.
      Planned thus far are a roasted goose, bread dumplings, sweet/sour cabbage, some oil-roasted root vegetables, and a poppyseed roll and berry kolaces for dessert. Oh, and a little Crosse & Blackwell pudding with accompanying hard sauce out of the jar - I know tastier alternatives are out there, but somehow it's not Christmas dinner without one!
      PS-Tom, you know I need your oatmeal recipe!!

      1. re: Tom Steele
        j
        Jessica Shatan Dec 4, 2000 11:52 AM

        Tom I gotta have that oatmeal recipe! Sounds like a great special skiing breakfast or a fun blow-out brunch alternative to pancakes and french toast.

        Also, since when does busche de Noel have nuts in it??? I thought it was like a jelly roll with chocolate whipped cream instead of jelly.

        1. re: Jessica Shatan
          r
          rjka Dec 4, 2000 12:52 PM

          I don't know about this particular buche, but the traditional filling is some sort of buttercream, not whipped cream, and the buttercream often includes hazelnut praline. I've also seen it with chestnut buttercream filling. I guess one could be allergic to either.

          1. re: Jessica Shatan
            j
            jen kalb Dec 4, 2000 12:56 PM

            I highly recommend Marquet's buche de noel - it does vary in its exact composition from year to hear - it has had hazelnuts buttercream filling on at least one occasion, but not every year. I am sure they would make one with chocolate or mocha, say, instead.

            My personal favorite buche (I am not a chocoholic) has a white sponge cake, a mocha buttercream inside the roll and a choc/mocha buttercream for the "bark".

            Any nominations for best stollen? Homemade and warmed up, it makes one of the best Christmas breakfasts ever.

            what about West Indian Black Cake? Who makes the best?

          2. re: Tom Steele
            p
            Pat Goldberg Dec 4, 2000 02:24 PM

            Roasting a goose any way is pretty easy. But if you roast one at 500 degrees, make sure you have a self-cleaning oven and an excellent exhaust fan.

            1. re: Tom Steele
              d
              Dan Levy Dec 4, 2000 06:42 PM

              Tom,

              Roast a goose! Last Christmas day, my wife prepared a couple of geese purchased at the Union Square Greenmarket. They were just great. And she clarified and saved the goose fat, which was a sinful cooking treat all year. Hash browned potatoes cooked in goose schmaltz is a very good thing and will definitely send you back to the old country.

              1. re: Dan Levy
                l
                Leslie Brenner Dec 4, 2000 07:01 PM

                Goose fat--sinful? In what way?

                1. re: Leslie Brenner
                  b
                  bryan Dec 5, 2000 02:15 AM

                  Perhaps I'm just a big ole pervert but i can think of several ways in which one could make goose fat sinful. Mostly not involving food however.

              2. re: Tom Steele
                b
                bryan Dec 5, 2000 02:17 AM

                After the success of the sprouts Tom, I must now have the oatmeal recipe. Bring it on big-boy.

                1. re: bryan
                  t
                  Tom Steele Dec 5, 2000 03:09 PM

                  Okay, okay everybody--especially Bryan, who asked first: Here's the oatmeal recipe. I promise it will get your Christmas off to quite a rich start.

                  CHRISTMAS MORNING OATMEAL FOR TWO

                  2 cups rolled oats (see note)
                  2 cups milk
                  1 cup heavy cream
                  3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
                  1/4 cup dried cranberries
                  1/4 cup dried blueberries
                  1/4 cup golden raisins
                  1/2 teaspoon salt
                  2 teaspoons good vanilla extract

                  Put everything except the vanilla in a large saucepan.

                  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer 5-6 minutes, uncovered, stirring every few minutes.

                  Stir in vanilla, and serve with dark brown or maple sugar and milk or half-and-half. More butter? Why not?

                  NOTE: Try to find Eric & Andy's Organic Homegrown Rolled Oats (not their steel-cut). I've seen it at Balducci's, Garden of Eden on 14th St. and Fifth, Dean and DeLuca, Gourmet Garage, and even a few supermarkets. You'll never do Quaker again!

                  1. re: Tom Steele
                    l
                    Lisa Z Dec 5, 2000 04:11 PM

                    A small* scoop of vanilla ice cream also makes a nice topping for hot cereal, in case the milk, butter and heavy cream aren't rich enough for you!

                    * only reason it's a small scoop is so the cereal stays hot!

                    1. re: Lisa Z
                      s
                      Sharon A Dec 6, 2000 08:13 AM

                      Another great addition is chopped dried apricots (I get "slab" apricots which are way more flavorful, if not quite so beautiful as the ones you usually see).

                      Sprinkle chopped almonds (salted are best) on top when the oatmeal's done.

                      This is the sort of breakfast that makes wintertime mornings worthwhile.

              3. t
                Tida Dec 4, 2000 10:55 AM

                My husband usually prepares a huge pot roast served with the gravy over rice. However, this year I've been asked to prepare the main course. Duly nervous but compliant, I intend to make a stuffed and rolled flank steak full of proscuitto, basil, Parmesan and fontina coated with an olive oil, garlic, and thyme marinade.

                Tasty!

                1. c
                  Caitlin Dec 4, 2000 12:57 PM

                  My mom's Christmas day meals were pretty damn traditional, now that I think about it: For breakfast, a once-a-year homemade Danish pastry--a braided wreath with an almond and cheese filling. Dinner was roast goose and dessert was homemade steamed fig pudding with hard sauce and lemon sauce (who needs hard sauce from a jar? All it is is butter, sugar and brandy!).

                  My other half and I usually have Chinese takeout or the like on Christmas and do our fancy dinner on Christmas Eve. It's different every year. This year, I'm thinking seared duck breasts with blackberry-brandy sauce and lemon risotto. As for dessert, I'm about to start experimenting on the filling for a pear and fudge pie concept I've had swimming in my head.

                  Christmas breakfast varies, too, with favorites being blueberry gingerbread pancakes, stuffed french toast, and this year, my baked french toast with an underside of maple caramel and sliced apples that comes out of the oven tasting like a cross between french toast and tarte tatin. A bonus is that it's prepared the day before and sits in the fridge overnight, so all you have to do in the morning is throw it in the oven.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Caitlin
                    b
                    berkelybabe Dec 4, 2000 02:23 PM

                    Bluberry gingerbread pancakes???MMMMMMMM! Will you post the recipe? Please... can't wait to try it.
                    One of the best holiday meals we ever had was a post Christmas Day open-house. No cooking. Chinese carryout. Totally changed the day from work to relaxed, mellow day with family.

                    1. re: Caitlin
                      c
                      Caitlin Dec 4, 2000 04:56 PM

                      The pancake recipe is on Epicurious; see link below. If I'm doing a big pancake thing for breakfast or brunch, I like to mix up the dry and wet ingredients the night before and combine them in the morning. I learned the hard way not to add blueberries--especially frozen!--to the wet ingredients the night before (unless you *want* blue pancakes, that is).

                      "Tarte Tatin" French Toast

                      6 tablespoons butter
                      1/2 cup brown sugar
                      1/4 cup maple syrup
                      1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
                      1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, sliced thin
                      6 1-inch thick slices challah or French bread
                      1 1/2 cups half-and-half or 1 12-oz. can evaporated skim milk
                      5 large eggs
                      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                      pinch salt

                      Melt butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon together and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a 9x13-inch baking pan and tilt to cover bottom. Arrange apple slices in pan in a single layer (overlapping slightly is fine). Place bread slices in pan, squeezing if necessary to fit. Whisk together half-and-half or evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Pour evenly over bread in pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove pan from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while you preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed and golden on top. Serve immediately; to serve, slide a spatula under each piece and turn it "upside down" onto plate so apples and syrup are on top.

                      Link: http://www.epicurious.com/run/recipe/...

                      1. re: Caitlin
                        m
                        magnolia Dec 9, 2000 06:20 AM

                        Have you already tried making this? I'm reluctant to soak the bread in any kind of liquid overnight for fear it will fall apart...any ideas?

                        1. re: magnolia
                          k
                          Katherine Dec 9, 2000 12:13 PM

                          I've made a baked caramel french toast much like this before. No, the bread doesn't break down, because you don't handle it wet like you would in making pan-fried french toast.

                          1. re: magnolia
                            c
                            Caitlin Dec 9, 2000 06:41 PM

                            Uh, yeah, I've made it...it's my recipe, albeit the basic concept was cribbed from elsewhere. And, no, the bread does not break down overnight. I use challah, a soft bread to begin with, but remember, it is in inch-thick slices. All the liquid soaks into the bread overnight, and as Katherine points out, you don't handle the bread, you pop the whole pan in the oven. After 45 minutes in the oven, the bread is browned and puffed on top. You remove it from the pan with a spatula and flip it over onto a plate. Its texture is soft and tender, but not custardy. I've never had a problem with the bread coming apart.

                        2. re: Caitlin
                          b
                          Betty Dec 8, 2000 10:27 AM

                          I hope you'll let us know how the pear/fudge pie concept turns out.

                          1. re: Betty
                            c
                            Caitlin Dec 8, 2000 12:04 PM

                            I will. The current concept is to brush a thin layer of raspberry preserves over the bottom of a lightly prebaked crust, then a layer of sliced pears, and finally, the fudge filling, which will probably be flavored with some brandy. I'm going to experiment this weekend, I hope, with the fudge filling part, to find the texture and sweet/chocolate balance I want. I'm modeling it on a fudge pie I used to have when I was growing up from a now-closed café in Oakland, CA. A little fudgy and gooey, not cakey, but not so gooey as, say, a pecan pie filling...

                            1. re: Caitlin
                              c
                              christine Dec 8, 2000 03:36 PM

                              Sounds good! Reminds me of a brown butter/pear tart I used to make, where the brown butter was a v. rich custard, poured over fanned halves of poached pears (in a blind-baked shell) and baked. The custard was puffed and cracked on the top, but creamy underneath...
                              I'd recommend poaching the pears first - put in raw, they'd might still be raw when the filling was baked, if you're looking for a fudgy texture. I'm making the assumption that you're using the pears in thick wedges or other large pieces. Even in thin slices, my instincts would be to use at least somewhat cook the pears. Besides, the pre-cooking allows you to doctor the flavor of less than wonderful pears, or add other tastes you might want to amplify (vanilla etc.)
                              Let us know how it turns out.

                              Christine

                            2. re: Betty
                              c
                              Caitlin Dec 28, 2000 02:34 PM

                              It turned out very well! After a few test runs, I figured out the fudge filling. The pie was very rich and bittersweet(the kind that demands freshly-whipped, barely-sweetened cream to handle the chocolate and brandy flavors), and thus provided dessert for a couple of nights. If anyone's interested, here's what I did:

                              single crust for 9-inch pie
                              3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
                              1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
                              2 T. butter
                              1/2 cup sugar
                              1/2 cup dark corn syrup
                              4 large eggs
                              2 T. brandy
                              1 t. vanilla
                              7 t. (2 T. + 1 t.) all purpose flour
                              1 large, ripe Anjou pear, peeled, cored, cut in 1/4-inch slices.

                              Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Blind-bake crust 10 min. (or use this trick: prick crust all over with tines of a fork, then freeze 15 min. and bake w/o weights). Melt chocolates and butter over low heat (I use the microwave). Whisk in sugar and corn syrup, then eggs, brandy and vanilla, then flour. Arrange pears in bottom of pie crust (don't bother with anything fancy, because some will rise to the top as the pie bakes). Pour filling over and bake 45 min., or until top looks set (the filling will still be very jiggly underneath, but sets up as it cools). Allow to cool to room temp. before eating.

                          2. m
                            Martha Gehan Dec 4, 2000 01:30 PM

                            OK, first off I want to know what you stuff those lobsters with and how Caitlin prepares her French toast! My family is usually so jaded by month-long tying on of the feed bag that on Christmas Day we opt for something a bit simpler. We open our presents, then have champagne or bloody marys, smoked salmon, bagels, herring, coffee and tea. Later in the day we graze on cold ham, turkey, salad, chocolates, Christmas cookies (one of my sisters bakes ace gingerbread men, another has a mother-in-law who provides an assortment of fabulous cookies). We usually have a more elaborate meal on Christmas Eve-sometimes out, sometimes home. Wherever we are, if dinner is at home it is cooked by yours truly. There is a fairly large white-meat-or-fish-only, nothing-too-exotic-or-spicy- please faction among my loved ones , but some recent crowd-pleasers have been marinated and grilled shrimp and fettucine with asparagus and a lemon cream sauce. I save the fancier stuff for New Year's Eve, when I usually have a dinner party. In recent years I have done choucroute garnie (a massive hit and great leftovers), coulibiac of salmon (so rich as to induce inertia ), and last year, an entire menu culled from Mario Batali's Simple Italian Cooking (think that's the title) which included pasta with crab and hot chiles and snapper Livornese. Come to think of it, I may make that snapper the main for this year's Christmas Eve dinner.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Martha Gehan
                              p
                              pat hammond Dec 4, 2000 03:27 PM

                              You need a strong stomach for the first part:

                              4- 1 1/2# lobsters, live. Split them (while they live)along the underside, or have your fish monger do it. Tell him/her not to remove anything, just split it for stuffing. Inside you'll see the tomalley and coral, the tomalley is the greenish or almost black liver and it's delicious (pure essence of the sea). I usually get poetic here! The coral is the roe and is usually orangeish. Wash lobster and remove vein from tail meat, dry and set aside.

                              Now to your question, which is the stuffing:

                              1 & 1/2 quart fresh bread crumbs (I use the blender)
                              1 & 1/2 cup butter
                              1-2 cloves garlic crushed
                              3-4 dashes Tabasco
                              1/2-3/4 t dried tarragon

                              Saute in large skillet the bread crumbs in 3/4- 1cup butter until golden. Add garlic, pepper sauce, tarragon, S & P to taste. Mash up tomalley and coral well and stir into bread crumb mixture, stir around until the T & C are cooked. It will set up almost like eggs that you've scrambled. The mixture will be quite moist.

                              Broil lobsters shell side up for about 5-8 minutes. Turn over and broil another 10, they should be just about fully cooked. Brush cavity with some of left over butter and pile in the stuffing covering most of body with the stuffing. Broil some more until stuffing is bubbling and brown.

                              Serve with lemon and extra melted butter.

                              I've fiddled with the recipe over the years and am sure there is no copyright problem.

                              Maybe I'm looking forward to Christmas after all! pat

                              1. re: pat hammond
                                b
                                bryan Dec 5, 2000 02:10 AM

                                Mmmmm. That sounds really, really good.
                                My husband's Italian and grew up on an all seafood X-mas eve which I still have to surrender (willingly) to.
                                We always have baked clams, fried calamari (in olive oil), smelts, sometimes oysters and a pasta dish in a plain tomato gravy. After stuffing everyone silly we sit down to several deserts and espresso and roast chestnuts while trimming the tree. We then roll his family into their cars and thank God it over with until tomorrow.

                                1. re: pat hammond
                                  m
                                  Martha Gehan Dec 5, 2000 01:03 PM

                                  Thanks, Pat! (And to Caitlin for her french toast recipe). Am thinking of replacing my planned Christmas Eve dinner of snapper Livornese with these lobsters. I am cooking for quite a crowd (including my five-year-old niece, who like her auntie is an omnivore--think I'll kill the lobsters when she's not looking..)so I wondered if you thought (can't think of a reason why not)it would work if I cooked at least some of the lobsters on a gas grill while cooking others in the oven, then stuffed them and finished them all off in the oven. I think, even though this method entails time put in on a porch in northern Virginia and most probably freezing in the process, it might be quicker and more efficient to do it thusly. What do you think?

                                  1. re: Martha Gehan
                                    p
                                    pat hammond Dec 5, 2000 01:22 PM

                                    Martha, I think you've got a great idea. Of course, if you're cooking for a crowd that will be a VERY expensive dinner. I'm worrying about cooking for 5 and I live in Maine!

                                    A hint about dispatching the critter. This isn't absolutely cricket, but you can plunge them into boiling water just long enough to do them in. They'll still be virtually raw inside. And again, ask your lobster purveyor do it, if possible. It's much easier on everybody. pat

                                    1. re: Martha Gehan
                                      c
                                      christina z Dec 6, 2000 06:13 AM

                                      no text - just the question above

                                      1. re: christina z
                                        m
                                        magnolia Dec 6, 2000 08:00 AM

                                        I think Livorno (in Italy) is in Tuscany...

                                        1. re: magnolia
                                          t
                                          tamara Dec 6, 2000 11:19 AM

                                          Livorno (anglicized to Leghorn) is in the Genoa region, no? a bit north and west of Tuscany

                                          1. re: tamara
                                            m
                                            Martha Gehan Dec 6, 2000 11:43 AM

                                            Think so--in Italian cooking "Livornese" seems to signal a tomato sauce with capers and olives the way "Genoese' means pesto.

                                    2. re: pat hammond
                                      m
                                      Martha Gehan Dec 8, 2000 02:55 PM

                                      Pat, I know the advantage of having the lobsters fresh-killed, but is there one to splitting them while still alive? Couldn't you just kill them quickly by cutting down with a sharp knife in the space between the head and body shells, thereby severing the spinal cord? This method is espoused by Julia Child among others. (Also by my boyfriend, a vet, who says that from a scientific point of view it makes the most sense and is the most humane). Elizabeth David, in an essay, mentions that the RSPCA recommends putting the lobsters in cold water and very slowly heating it, which causes them to lose consciousness. I may be overthinking this, but I don't know if I can get the lobsters the same day I am cooking them, and in Virginia in any case they won't be as fresh as yours. So I am a bit reluctant to have the fishmonger do the deed. And it will be me and perhaps some of the men in the house doing the deed. I used to have to warn my sisters away from the house when I was boiling crabs because they didn't want to hear the banging around in the pot. Although they were only too happy to eat the resultant sauce on linguine. :-)

                                      1. re: Martha Gehan
                                        p
                                        pat hammond Dec 8, 2000 03:36 PM

                                        Martha: Severing the old spinal cord trick! I forgot all about that one. They'll continue to twitch for a while, so just keep telling yourself, "It doesn't feel a thing". And absolutely, once they have been split and the goodies removed to a bowl that you can cover, they'll keep a day, I'm sure. Now I'm getting nervous. I sure hope you all love this stuffing as we always have. And I'm complimented beyond telling that you're doing this favorite of mine. pat

                                        p.s. In reviewing the recipe, I notice that I didn't include the tomalley and coral in the listed ingredients. Don't forget this stuff. It's the key.

                                  2. a
                                    Alexandra Eisler Dec 4, 2000 04:15 PM

                                    My hunter-gatherer came home with a brace of geese for Christmas and I am curious about James Beard's grilled goose recipe. Has anyone tried it? These are lean birds with little-to-no skin left after plucking...

                                    1. a
                                      andy huse Dec 4, 2000 04:35 PM

                                      we usually do a brunch on Xmas day, which includes a homemade pecan sticky-bun type coffee cake, a wonderful quiche with a brown mushroom sauce, fresh fruit, french toast with berries or other fruit, juice, etc. Most all is made ahead of time and reheated. Then, there's no pressure for dinner looming overhead all day. we used to do dinner, but this is much nicer as a family.

                                      1. p
                                        pat hammond Dec 4, 2000 05:18 PM

                                        I'm frequenty accused by my family, particularly my children, of being overly effusive. But I want to say thanks for these terrific responses. I'm certainly not calling a halt to my request and hope there will be more. In the meantime, in my overly effusive way, I want to say I think that we chowhounds are just wonderful. Happy Holidays. pat

                                        1. e
                                          Emily Cotlier Dec 16, 2000 09:41 PM

                                          Down under, we have Christmas Day Meal schizophrenia at its most acute. New Zealand's strong British heritage calls for heavy, shortbread-crusted mince pies, roast turkeys, roast potatoes, plum pudding, and the Antipodean interpretation of pannetone--not the fluffy egg bread/cake, but a geology-dense mass of sugar and nuts prepared in some sucrose supercondenser.

                                          But the sun is shining outside. It's a balmy 75 to 80 degrees. The sea sparkles in the sun. Crayfish, strawberries, cherries, fresh lettuces, passionfruit are in season. It's barbecue weather. In the past, my own attempts to make complex meals of filet mignon and latkes have been met with lukewarm enthusiasm.

                                          Many people compromise with a barbecue for lunch and a formal sit-down dinner of British classics. Many others throw over the British-style meal for a Kiwi barbecue, featuring: bacon and egg pie, sausages (British type sausages, served not in buns but on sad pieces of white bread, with cinnamon-touched tomato sauce), lamb chops and steaks and kebabs (now you're talking), often touched with fusion-cooking marinades, and altogether too many sweets. Nobody can ever agree on salads.

                                          I'm getting together with an expat Dutch friend, and we and our spouses are having:
                                          home-made Caesar salad, corn on the cob grilled, Czech potato salad, shish kebabs, steaks, lamb chops, (all meat done on a manuka-wood charcoal grill), Amsterdam-style apple pie, tiramisu, and berries. We will be eating this range through several hours and in small portions so that we can try all the different tastes!

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