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[This thread was moved from the LA board. --The Chowhound Team]

In a moment of heated inspiration yesterday I volunteered to do a high end, small dinner with wine pairings for Christmas Eve. I want to do a formal dress up dinner party. Would love some menu suggestions from fellow Chowhounders!

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  1. Aly.... can you provide us with some basic ingredients you like? Meats, Vegetables etc.,

    I think... Lamb & Pork are among things considered traditional for Christmas... Cod in Italy & Mexico... etc.,

    1. I'm having a nice formal dinner party on Sunday evening for my friends who own a wine shop - they're providing the wines - I'm doing a fresh scallop appetizer, some kind of salad TBD - duck with blackberry sauce, wild rice with roasted butternut squash and pecans, and rolls. For dessert I'm doing the peppermint chocolate torte on the cover of this month's BA (about the only recipe in this issue I wanted to try.)

      I love to do duck this time of year, and people don't eat it very often, so they're usually pretty happy to have it.

      1. I made that torte the other day, and used andes mints because I couldn't find the hard starlight kind. It turned out great and got rave reviews, even from non-chocolate lovers! Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jenhen2

          Oo thanks! Just the push I needed!

        2. definitely a game bird of some kind - duck, quail, grouse, pheasant
          a fish course, maybe cod or stuffed squid

          1. Beef Wellington

            To go with it, some twist on mashed potatoes (with truffles, or mashed with parsnips).

            Martha Stewart has a recipe for Asparagus and Camembert bread pudding that would be nice as a side.

            A few fancy hors d'ouvres - goat cheese tartlets, etc...

            I'd have to think a little more, but Wellington would be my first choice for a main.

            1. Something dramatic but easy so you're not trapped in the kitchen with finishing details.
              A whole poached or baked salmon or other fish.
              Or a beef tenderloin.
              European Christmas Eve menus are ofen seafood because that day was a day of fast and abstinence pre-Vatican II and the tradition continues for many. We always had raw oysters and bouilliabaisse for a fairly informal meal.
              Profiteroles for dessert. Or Bananas Foster, flamed tableside. Both easy but elegant.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MakingSense

                The main reason I avoid beef tenderloin this time of year for a small party is just that I see it at parties a lot, and I cook one myself for our own Christmas party. I like game for the smaller dinner parties mainly because you don't see them a lot, and it's such a good time of year to find fresh fowl or meat.

              2. The new issue of Saveur has an incredible recipe for beef tenderloin. (The best I've ever tasted.) It's a breeze to make and would free you up in the kitchen to enjoy your guests (as previously mentioned). If you decide to make it, trust the recipe and follow it exactly. The raves will come from all sides.

                1. Calamari tubes stuffed with proscuitto-smoked mozzarella and parmesan?

                  You could make these ahead of time and give them a quick saute and serve with, well I prefer them with a Syrah- but I think everything goes with Syrah...Maybe with some dressed peppery greens?

                  you need 1 lb tubes 1/2 c diced roma 1/2 c smoked mozz 2 T parmesan
                  2 T cooked and minced proscuitto a little lemon juice 1 smashed & minced garrlic clove 2 T parsley.

                  Stuff each tube and refridgerate, then heat your best olive oil and saute till cooked.

                  1. App: parmesan stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.

                    Main: Slices of beef tenderloin with roasted shallots, bacon and port (recipe from epi) served over a celery root puree with roasted brussel sprout halves arranged around the plate... all in a pool of the port wine sauce.

                    Dessert: bittersweet molten chocolate cakes (recipe from epi) with espresso ice cream (or with a raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream).

                    You can add additional courses, of course, depending on how all out you want to go. The beef tenderloin is impressive, delicious, and (best of all) easy and much of it can be made ahead.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      I've made that epi tenderloin recipe on many occasions and been very happy - I often make the gravy if I have need for a sauce.

                    2. I think duck would be a great idea. It is so rich it just seems right for an over-the-top affair. Ummm, a rich duck risotto. I also think you need some seafood. Could just make fish/seafood soup/bisque or crab legs (that'll loosen up the group) or see how many ways you could put shrimp out.

                      I just saw an off the chart idea on another thread - duck ravioli!

                      1. A crown roast of lamb!
                        The butcher shop had one recently that they had done as a special order and it was drop-dead gorgeous. Elegant with those little ruffles. Easy to cook and carve. Stuff the center with Israeli cous cous. Beautiful presentation and not often seen these days.

                        1. These are all so great...keep 'em coming guys. TorontoJo, do you have a recipe for the choc molten cakes?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MalibuAly

                            This is the recipe I always use. And yes, yayadave, I know they are almost cliche at this point, but they are still so good and so easy. :)


                            MalibuAly, I make these cakes at least the day before. They freeze well, too, if you need to make them even further in advance. I double butter the ramekins and dust with either sugar or cocoa so that they are easy to turn out. I serve them turned out on a plate with a raspberry coulis and a quality vanilla ice cream. Dust the whole plate with powdered sugar just before serving.

                          2. We always start with some fresh cracked Dungeness crab and bubbly.

                            1. I think it ain't elegant if ya don't have soup.

                              Are those little molten chocolate cakes being overdone?

                              How about right after you clear the table you put out a plate of wonderful chocolates and a tray of cookies with coffee. Then a half hour or an hour later you could serve up a great bread pudding with a rich sauce? I'm not thinking in terms of Hershey's kisses and Oreos, here.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: yayadave

                                Like Tiramasu, yes, chocolate molten cakes are not very "new," but they are HEAVEN. There's a restaurant in Malibu called Allegria that serves this in a pool of a heavenly Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise.

                                1. re: yayadave

                                  Not only overdone, but the worst part is if you get distracted for a minute or two, the will be OVERDONE and not molten on the inside. They just aren't special when they're well done! I can't believe I screwed up something so simple, but i did.

                                  1. re: yayadave

                                    Soup, indeed! The effort of laying out and clearing the soup course is best reserved for a formal meal.

                                    A very thin oyster chowder -- milk, butter, oysters, a little potato and corn, and seasonings (salt, pepper, bay).

                                    Or a simple salmon chowder.

                                    Both complement more substantial meat courses to come.

                                    As for salad, a simple mix of greens, garnished with smoked trout and dried blueberries, dressed with a light blueberry vinegarette is quite good.

                                  2. The newest Cook's Illustrated magazine has some wonderful arugula salad options. I've made the figs, walnuts, and sauteed prosciutto one 3 times already - including once for Thanksgiving and EVERYONE loved it. For TDay, I made some parmesan crisps to go along with the salad to make it even fancier. delicious!

                                    oh - and it's not too much work for the salad, which makes it a perfect option when making a whole menu.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sheitoon

                                      Oh, yeah, Figs and Argula. Perfect. I"m going to use this one. Think I"ll add some Stilton.

                                    2. Napa Style has a great recipe- can find it on the internet- for asparagus wrapped in proscuitto with garlic breadcrumbs. A real crowd pleaser. I usually make it with their recipe for cedar plank broild salmon with egg sauce (which has salmon caviar in it). It is quite elegant.

                                      1. I served this recipe last weekend - has a "wow" factor and is actually pretty easy

                                        Lamb Loin Medallions with Potato Crust (like a rosti crust)

                                        One large boneless lamb loin

                                        Cut loin into one inch or slightly larger pieces (about 2 oz each).

                                        Shred four large potatoes - do not drain - and add as much chopped garlic and rosemary as you like, 1/4 cup flour and one beaten egg. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.

                                        Put some flour in a bowl, and beat an egg in another bowl - dip a piece of lamb loin in the fegg wash then the flour and then scoop a generous 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the palm of your left hand (if you're right handed/reverse if left handed) then place the piece of lamb loin on top and distribute the potato mixture to evenly surround the piece of lamb loin - this is much easier than it sounds - the potato mixture sticks very easily to the loin.

                                        Heat olive oil in non stick pan and fry potato covered loins until brown - rotating on all sides until evenly browned. This is also very easy - you just keep turning as necessary (the potato really wants to stick to the lamb - it doesn't fall off) and by the time the sides are all brown and crispy the lamb is medium rare - every time (and I've made this alot).

                                        I have made this up to 2 hours before serving - if you do place the potato encrusted lamb medallions on a rack and heat in a hot oven (425) for about 10 minutes - the potatoes crisp up nicely and the lamb is still pink.

                                        Because I debone the lamb loin myself I make a jus with the lamb bones and serve the medallions on a small puddle of jus - but it's not necessary.

                                        1. Here's another gem that would bear looking into for a rich risotto.


                                          1. Last year, I decided to do an Italian Christmas Eve. Can't remember the appetizers....except I remember some sort of bass that marinated in lemon juice. (kind of like ceviche)
                                            Did butternut squash risotto and then osso bucco. Started with prosecco. Moved on to a crisp Italian white....then a full bodied Italian red. (sangiovese or Super Tuscan) It was fun--and a nice change from prime rib.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: perk

                                              Nice idea. I'm crazy about Prosecco.

                                            2. Personally I'd figure out a basic theme then fill in the details, although seems like you're doing recon work to get ideas / themes. Some pretty cool ideas so far. Game birds certainly have a wow to them since it's not served at home very often, and relatively difficult to do right.

                                              My general question is: traditional, nouveau, Californian, other or combo?

                                              Once I figure out the main course building the meal around it has its own logic and fun. Example: Christmas goose, wild rice or maybe a wild rice paella, a seasonal veggies to go w/ it, some kind of seafood app, etc. etc. Or crown of prime rib, Italian bread pudding, etc.

                                              Anyway, that's my thought process -- figure out the star of the meal and then add stuff that's compliments it, or "sets up" the meal. Usually if you can figure out the main course and one or two major sides the rest comes pretty easy or seasonal.

                                              Best of luck.

                                              1. I always like a simple oven-softened whole brie covered in warm honey with craisins and walnuts or pecans. Mmmmmmmmmm.....

                                                1. Our family's special christmas eve. treat has become having pate de foie gras (my 93yr old grandmother brings it in her suitcase from Belgium!) with a really nice & cold sauternes. the sweetness of the wine pairs so gorgeously with the pate. I know a lot of people won't eat foie gras these days, so you might substitute a different kind of pate. but it's a combination that definitely says "special occasion to me."

                                                    1. re: yayadave

                                                      Ooh, yayadave, my m-i-l and I made the poached pears with candied rosemary and cornmeal pound cake dessert on Saturday (from one of this month's mags)- absolute heaven! Don't forget to drizzle the rosemary sugar syrup over the poundcake - it was absolutely amazing, and so seasonal! Extremely elegant.

                                                      1. re: AmandaEd

                                                        LOVE the poached pears idea. I did this once, but would love your recipe. The other day, I was at Geoffreys for a wine dinner in Malibu. The dessert was this UNBELIEVABLE Stone Fruit Compote, that was paired, interestingly enough, with a Cote a Cote. OH MY GOD, I've never tasted a more lovely pairing. The tarteness of the fruit with that wine was indescribably pleasing.

                                                        1. re: MalibuAly

                                                          No sweat! Here's the link.


                                                          Don't pay any attention to the fork rating. It's absolutely divine and very swish! Don't omit the candied rosemary - it's a total breeze to make and is the crowning touch to the dessert! We served this as one dessert option - the others were pumpkin pie and chocolate pots. Then a gorgeous cheese plate with figs, dates and grapes. Heavenly!

                                                          1. re: AmandaEd

                                                            Bueno! Gracias. "Swish"... like that better than "swank." Will have to steal that........

                                                    2. A raw bar with some shrimp, and lobster tails thrown in?
                                                      Fabulous garnishes like mignonette and some caviar?

                                                      Steak tartare or carpaccio for non-fishies?

                                                      A selection of exotic fruit and veggie crudites?

                                                      1. Here are a few ideas...this may not be as swanky as you were looking for but the following are pretty fancy, delicious, and impressive to guests...
                                                        Prosciutto wrapped melon pieces, perhaps with a dash of balsamic
                                                        Lobster ravioli (I like seafood for Christmas eve)
                                                        Haddock with saffron and tomatoes
                                                        Swordfish with brown butter sauce (excellent recipe on Epicurious)
                                                        Lemon tarts or lime curd tart (love citrus around Christmas time too, the lime curd tart idea is one I found in Barefoot Contessa but have not tried yet, looks yummy)

                                                        Your party sounds like fun!

                                                        1. One year for Christmas Dinner I made an hors d'oeuvre of "deviled quail eggs" with a thin shaving of black truffle on top - put just a drop or so of truffle oil in the yolk/mayonnaise mixture. Very elegant - though those eggs are a pain to peel, so I'd advise boiling a lot more than you plan to serve.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                            Gorgeous...lovin' that idea. Cannot get enough Truffle Oil

                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                              (though those eggs are a pain to peel)
                                                              My Christmas hors d'oeuvre always include stuffed deviled [hen] eggs -- and they're easier to peel when a few days old. $.02

                                                            2. OK, here's where I'm headed with the menu at the moment:

                                                              Nobu Spicey Tempura Rock Shrimp with Yuzu Sauce and Chives
                                                              Proscuitto wrapped Asparagus
                                                              Deviled Eggs with Truffle Slices / Alt. Topping: Caviar

                                                              Aspargus /Green Pea / Fresh Tarragon Cold Soup, topped in Lobster and
                                                              Truffle Oil Drizzle
                                                              Arugala / Fig / Stilton Salad
                                                              Wild Mushroom, Cream, Marsala, Basil Fettucine
                                                              Meat (not sure yet...probably a sliced marinated flank steak on greens)
                                                              Cheeses and fruit
                                                              or I'd like to wrestle that Stone Fruit recipe from Bijan at Geoffreys...or Poached Pears ... or Molten Choc cakes in Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise.

                                                              Is this menu all over the place???????????

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                query - Does the arugala salad need toasted walnuts?

                                                                gulp - Really? Flank steak?

                                                                drool - What ya' gonna do wit da left-overs?

                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                  "Gulp" as in "yuck...so pedestrian" or "gulp" as in, "yummy!" I found the receipe in this month's Saveur for their coffee encrusted beef tenderloin and I'm thinking that will be the "meat." :)

                                                                  1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                    I didn't really want to say "yuck" because it sounds so, um, um, what is the word I want? um, um, OH! uh yucky. There must be a reason that most of the recipes I see for flank steak start off with a marinade.

                                                                    I'm right now listening to Sirius (whatever) Classical Christmas on the TV and I think I hear Three Tenors singing over and over:
                                                                    OOOH-SOO-BUU-COO, oooh-SOO-buu-COO.
                                                                    Maybe they are hungry for osso buca. I think it would fit the occasion.

                                                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                                  Can't. She needs the pig alive to find all those truffles.

                                                                2. Wow. Have you ever made one? I can just see myself in high heels, teetering across the lawn to sauce the pig on a spit....

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                    Hehe, that would be funny. You can do them in the oven. Some people don't like the sight of a cooked baby pig's head though. Aside from that, I love truffles from Mailibu! They have that wonderful wildfire terroir with just a hint of mudslide.

                                                                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                                      Is there a video of Julia and Jacques carving a suckling pig? The Boy Scout Guide discusses digging for Malibu Truffles for merit badges.

                                                                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                                                                        Truffles in Malibu??? Tell me more... my old dog used to nose around under my oak trees and I jokingly called him the "truffle hunter." He found these scallop sized nubs of mushrooms and I often wondered if they were indeed truffles? Wow....because if they are, I have a lot of oak trees..............

                                                                        1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                          Oh, I was only joking! Hence the "mudslide" and wildfire" references :-) There may be some fungus that grows similarly to the truffle around your oaks, but I am very confident in saying they are nowhere near the same fungus that grows in Europe. In other words, don't eat it.

                                                                    2. If you are doing the asparagus wrapped proscuitto perhaps you want to do a soup without asparagus. How about a garlic soup, or a chestnut soup? Or if you want to stick with the lobster, a lobater bisque?

                                                                      1. One thing that is easy and adds a bit of elegance to any salad,

                                                                        Asiago "bowls", can be made ahead of time,....
                                                                        and ya don't have to wash them later

                                                                        1. This menu looks so fun I couldn't resist jumping in!

                                                                          I'd suggest adding chocolates to your dessert of fruit & cheese, and serve all with port. You'll be exhausted and happy to keep it simple, methinks.

                                                                          I don't think you even need the meat course; the main stuff sounds great without it.

                                                                          Agree about asparagus, I'd 86 it from the app list, or change the soup a bit.

                                                                          It sounds awesome!

                                                                          1. I know it is probably overdone but medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese mixed with honey and topped with a toasted pecan is a crowd pleaser at my parties.

                                                                            1. Its dungeness crab season. Maybe crab cakes, or just fresh crab. Can't go wrong with that.

                                                                              1. Depends on how many people, and whether you want to cook ahead, but here are some ideas: bacon wrapped-almond stuffed dates, shrimp scampi, beef rib roast, roasted beef tenderloin (whole or half), roasted veggies (tomatoes, carrots, asparagus), creamed onions, wild rice (or roasted potatoes, duck fat is great here or olive oil), poached pears (with chocolate sauce or brandy cream sauce).

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: steinpilz

                                                                                  I've just realized you're talking about Christmas Eve rather than Christmas. My family usually has salad and shrimp scampi with rice for Christmas Eve, no special dessert. Adapting my original suggestion, how about the dates as appetizer, a spinach salad with white mushrooms and dressing of your choosing (I like a soy, EVOO, lemon juice dressing but this isn't exactly traditional), shrimp scampi with wild rice, roasted tomatoes, and poached pears for dessert? Lots of interesting wine pairings there, which isn't bad at all.

                                                                                2. For holiday dinner a stuffed, roasted pork loin is pretty, swank enough for the occasion, and a crowd-pleaser. Ask the butcher to butterfly a boneless pork loin with two cuts so that it opens up in three attached, relatively flat pieces. Make a stuffing that matches the rest of the meal. For Thanksgiving this year, we used dried apricots, figs, and dates macerated in port. You could also use any pesto variation if you're looking for color, or any chutney variation. Spread the filling on the pork loin and roll it up jelly-roll style. Tie with bakers twine and roast. You can deglaze the pan drippings with about any combination of fruit and liquor (such as dried cherries and port) for a sauce.