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2008 Holiday Dinner Hits and Misses

There is usually a thread by now about this, but I couldn't locate one.

My hits were:

White Bean Roasted Pepper Dip from Simitten Kitchen for Xmas Eve-I used Goat Chz
The Tenderloin with Henry Bain sauce and Spicy Horseradish from Southern Living
Buttermilk-Chive Potatoes


Maple Nutmeg Cream Pie-Horrible, awful. So unlike the photos on Smitten Kitchen.
I made pita chips for the Bean Dip, but used a national brand this time. I usually use the wheats from Target Bakery. Much Better.

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  1. We had a lovely traditional English roast with roasted veggies and Yorkshire puddings plus Brussels sprouts with a browned butter and balsamic glaze. It was all very good. No dessert as such because there is so much holiday stuff around here to fill in in the sweets department.

    What didn't work was the carrot and leek soup that I've been making for at least a decade for Christmas and Easter. I always make it because we all love it so much but this year the veggies -- no doubt the leeks -- were stringy and the flavor was pale and characterless. I thought I did myself a favor buying the packaged cleaned leeks from Trader Joes. Next time I'll go the distance and clean up leeks that I can see are fresh. Not sure why the carrots were so whimpy and disappointing tho.

    Oh well....

    1 Reply
    1. re: rainey

      rainey: I've had trouble several times with Trader Joe's veggies. Often they have been tasteless. It IS a pain to cut the leeks, wash them and then bang them against the side of the sink to dislodge the dirt, then wash again...BUT I've had bad luck with TJ's veg packs.

    2. Everything turned out quite well, despite some technical problems with Goin's Meyer Lemon Tarte - I'd make everything again.

      Pisco Sours (per my mother's recipe card, a recipe from a cabarello in Lima!)
      Potted Shrimp on Brioche Toasts (Elizabeth David's Christmas)
      Potato, Celery and Tomato Soup (Elizabeth David's Christmas)
      Beef Wellington (A combination of Caroline1's recipe and one on Epicurious - mostly for timing)
      [Endive and Roasted Beet Salad - we ended up not having this, but the beets were made! (Elizabeth David's Christmas)]
      Meyer Lemon Tarte with Whipped Cream (Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

      10 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        A couple more photos:

          1. re: MMRuth

            Absolutely gorgeous photos, MMRuth... the Beef Wellington looks like it belongs in a photo shoot for a Cooking Mag!

            1. re: ideabaker

              Thanks - I was really pleased with the temperature of the meat. We like ours rare, but my mother likes hers medium, and they both turned out well. I'm going to post later the recipe I cobbled together using Caroline1's very helpful post, and the epicurious.com recipe. It was actually a lot easier to do than I expected.

            2. re: MMRuth

              MMR: That beef Wellington looks fabulous!

              What were the technical difficulties with the tart? I made the Nigella Seville orange tart and had some setting-up issues with the curd the first time.

              1. re: oakjoan

                It was a user errory with the crust - report and photos here:


            3. re: MMRuth

              Forgot to mention that I made a Sauce Perigueux for the beef wellington, using the recipe link posted by Caroline1:


              No Madeira to be found here, so I substituted a combination of Port and Cognac.

              1. re: MMRuth

                what are pisco sours? they sound very good whatever they are:)

                1. re: geminigirl

                  Here's the recipe:


                  Pisco/sugar syrup/key lime juice/egg white/bitters.

              2. hit: ridiculousy good play on the ubiquitous tater skins found at many chains/sports bars/etc (at least they used to be ubiquitous, haven't been to one of those places this millenium)...

                roasted some garlic & combined it w/ sour cream. made salt potatoes using small (ie bite size) new potaotes. fried up some good bacon & crumbled it. sliced potatoes in half & scooped out center. topped w/ cheddar & ran under broiler to melt. filled centers w/ a dollop of flavored sour cream. topped with bacon & chives.

                nothing fancy, but damn they were tasty.

                only miss was the flat bread i made to go with hummus. wasn't bad, but i "bake" it in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop, and this was my first time on my newish stove. took a little practice to get the temp right, so it came out a little crisper than i wanted. still tasted fine.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mark

                  Well, I tried doing them the night before, but I had to crisp them up the next day...so, that wasn't a time saving task. Some of mine were too crisp and weren't good for dipping, but mostly it was the flavor of "fake wheat" that was a turn off.

                  We usually do snacky things on Christmas Eve and go a bit fancier on Christmas Day. Those potatoes sound delish. Unfortunately, for some relatives, "snacky things" have turned into appetizers from Sams...which, I'm not too fond of. It doesn't have to be fancy, but I want it to taste good!

                2. Christmas Eve 2008 Menu

                  Appetizers (put out in the living room):
                  Smoked salmon spread and assorted crackers
                  Cheese straws, twisted with grated parmesan and poppy seeds
                  Nuts and nut mixes to nibble

                  On the buffet table:
                  Smoked ham with cilantro/lime glaze, thickly sliced
                  Cranberries with oranges and cinnamon
                  Glazed baby carrots with butter and orange juice (ordinary)
                  Potatoes (thinly sliced, layered with thinly sliced onions, chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper; turkey stock poured over, topped with butter and baked )
                  Spinach and red pepper quiche
                  Vegetarian ravioli (brought by friends)

                  On the sideboard:
                  Raspberry-topped lemon tartlets in red and green phyllo shells (really pretty)
                  Assorted chocolates
                  Cookies (brought by another friend)

                  Recipe for the quiche and some photos at http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                    How did you make those phyllo shells?

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I didn't make the phyllo shells; the colored ones are available seasonally at my King Soopers (Kroger). They are made by Athens (www.athens.com), which makes packaged phyllo shells year-round as well as frozen phyllo dough. In previous years, I've filled the red and green shells with a mushroom filling or with a cheese mixture as an appetizer. This year, I used a lemon filling for tart shells from an old "Gourmet's Menus for Conemporary Living" and topped each with a fresh raspberry.

                  2. The single "miss" of Christmas dinner was that my husband could not get the popovers out of the popover tin. This has happened before, and I'm not sure what the solution is. This was in lieu of making Yorkshire pudding, and some of our guests were disappointed :-(

                    1. Christmas Day:
                      Just the two of us this year so:
                      No appetizers .... cocktails w/ cheese & crackers
                      Roast Duck - Julia Child's MAFC, Vol. I
                      Creamed Spinach and Parsnips - Food & Wine Mag.
                      Couscous with Olives - Chef Lina Spigalina of the Lenox MA restaurant, Spigalina
                      We don't have desserts generally but DH did manage to do considerable damage to a plate of Italian cookies.

                      Everything turned out exactly as expected.... delicious! It was strange not to have a housefull as in past years, DD is spending the holidays in the UK, so it was really like "the old days" pre children.....a lovely dinner in front of the fire.

                      1. My roast squabs were stodgy -- not horrible, but I wouldn't do them again. And My rosti potatoes failed utterly even though I had really done my homework about proper techniques and borrowed a non-stick skillet.

                        On the up side, I can't believe how much my family enjoyed fondue at Christmas dinner. And the Rathaustorte, a rum and hazelnut torte from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Cakes, was truly delicious.

                        1. Christmas eve was simple and easy -- oyster stew with cornbread. Came out fine.

                          Christmas day hits: the Five Hour Duck with Sour Cherry Compote posted by MMRuth. I was really worried about cooking poultry for that long even at low heat, but it came out perfect. The compote was a recipe to play with, but I kept it fairly simple. i left out the orange juice and zest and added balsamic vinegar. I don't even remember what else I did with it.

                          The brussels sprout hash with caramelized shallots. I've made this before, and it's one of my favorite dishes.

                          Corn with roasted red pepper and goat cheese. This was a Chow recipe, and it was quite tasty.

                          Oyster stuffing: Yum. We split the recipe in two and left the oysters out of half, substituting sage sausage in case we had an oyster hater.

                          Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. Simple, direct. I wanted to get some truffle for it, but ended up using a few drops of black truffle oil.

                          Dessert was apple pie and brown sugar sour cream cheesecake. The cheesecake was excellent. i was too full to try the pie, but people said it was very good.

                          The major failures were with the appetizer plate. We discovered that the smoked salmon that we planned for a pinwheel wasn't a rollable piece, but a plank. We ended up dumping the ingredients into a food processor (cream cheese, capers, shallots) and making a dip instead.

                          And I was making an aioli for use as a dip, but it just completely failed. I didn't have time to fix it so we ended up dumping it. I'm not sure what went wrong -- I've made this time and time again perfectly using marialorraine's food processor method.

                          The other failure was the fact that my girlfriend thought I had a roasting pan and I thought she had one. Oops! She ended up driving around looking for an open grocery store to get one of the aluminum foil pans. That meant dinner was a little later than we'd planned.

                          This was the first time I've done a holiday dinner, and I was really worried that we were being too ambitious, but my girlfriend made a schedule that worked beautifully despite the late start.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JonParker

                            Congratulations - that all sounds wonderful. Making a dip with the salmon was the perfect solution. Which oyster stuffing recipoe did you end up using?

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I used the Saveur recipe you gave me.

                              One thing that really helped us was all the mise en place we did. On Wednesday we cut and toasted the bread for the stuffing. We needed shallots for several recipes, so I spent a hour chopping them and putting them in plastic containers labeled with the recipe they went with, so they were not only chopped but pre-measured. I made the compote on Wed. as well, and let the flavors blend overnight in the fridge. We just reheated it on the stove right before dinner.

                              Cooking on Christmas Day was basically a matter of cooking, not preparing.

                          2. All in all things went well here. Xmas eve was easy b/c we go to neighbors for cocktails & caroling. Dinner was homemade sauce and Sicilian meatballs (Italian sausage meatballs w/ currants and pine nuts... so good).

                            Christmas dinner was standing rib roast slathered w/ Dijon mustard, fresh rosemary and thyme. Served with a Zinfandel gravy. This was delicious (recipe on epicurious) and very easy to execute. My only issue was that I pulled it out of the oven at 120 and wrapped in foil. The temp went up to 136 - a bit more done than I would've liked. We served it with twice baked potatoes w/ mushrooms and cheddar (epicurious) and sauteed broccolini and garlic. Easy like Sunday morning.

                            Dessert was assorted holiday cookies and a really disgusting dark chocolate bar w/ crystallized ginger and chai - BLECH! Santa put it in my stocking and REALLY shouldn't have. :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lynnlato

                              Lynnlato: Is there a recipe for those meatballs? They sound delicious!

                            2. Our big hit was sauteed brussels sprouts leaves with a "trail mix" of hazelnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. The recipe was from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette around Thanksgiving time. Excellent flavors, although deconstructing the brussels sprouts into leaves was a bit of a chore.

                              Our main course was a slow-roasted beef from America's Test Kitchen. It was excellent.... eventually. It took much longer than the stated 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 250 degrees. OK, I'll admit that my roast was 5 lb instead of their suggested 3-4 lbs. But it took closer to 3 hours to get near 120 degrees, and that was with upping the temp to 275 for an hour and then to 375 so I could bake the rolls. We sliced the meat from the ends and put the middle back in for a little while. And dinner was about 2 hours late. Luckily it was just us, no guests, so it wasn't a major problem.

                              Also made some scandinavian browned potatoes that are boiled then browned in a mix of butter and sugar. Excellent.

                              A major miss was a honey peanut wafer cookie recipe from the Washington Post. They spread out so much that they were about 6 inches across! The recipe said to use a tablespoon to put on the pan, but a teaspoon would have made a better sized wafer. But the recipe said to do 2 pans at a time, so by the time I realized this, most of them had already been put in the oven. They taste like soft peanut brittle. Not completely objectionable, but not what I wanted to put on my plates of cookies. A waste of 1/2 cup of honey.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: AmyH

                                I did a Brussels sprouts recipe for Thanksgiving that called for separating into leaves, but I got tired of doing that and just cut them in quarters instead. It worked great. The recipe was Bon Appetit's, and had pistachios, lemon juice, and shallots. Definitely one to make again - especially if you take the easy way and do quarters.

                                1. re: alysonlaurel

                                  I think if you just cut the bottoms off, they'd fall into leaves?

                                  1. re: jaykayen

                                    They do not. They have to be pulled apart, which is crazy to me, since I thought they would fall apart without their bottoms, too. It was the first thing I tried.

                                    1. re: alysonlaurel

                                      I really like "shredded" brussel sprouts - just slice them up and sautee with bacon and shallots.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        I use this recipe:http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                        I substitute sherry vinegar for the cider vinegar and add crumbled bacon. It's amazingly good.

                                        1. re: JonParker

                                          I almost made that this year, but decided on the lemon juice pistachio conversation instead. Glad to know it's good.

                              2. I missed on the stuffing that I made from scratch for the first time. The bread cubes were too large and crusty. As result the stuffing was too dry and hard to eat - needed a knife to further cut up the bread.

                                The turkey was a hit. I tried a sage, garlic butter rub under the skin. I also roasted at a higher heat this year (from Alton Brown). I was pleased with the results and faster cooking time. I also made brussel sprouts with bacon and garlic and roast potatoes. I par boil and then roast the potatoes in crisco. I know this is terribly unhealthy but it's how my mother always made them and I love them!

                                1. Hits:
                                  cookies and cookies
                                  apple pie with currants and vodka crust - mm...
                                  awesome wine sister picked out from her make-shift cellar
                                  creamed spinach
                                  orange and fennel salad with pomegranate syrup
                                  glazed pearl onions
                                  12 layer cake - great flavor but i wish it is not so cold so the cake is in its "moisty" consistency and that i was able to use all the espresso syrup (moisture) without the concern of kids doing cartwheels all night long =)
                                  horseradish cream- ppl loved
                                  garlic mashed potatoes
                                  Seafood chowder - even the kids liked it. i would hit it with more cream and roux next time.

                                  Carrots- my usual recipe but we were in a hurry to finish and and it kinda browned too much
                                  Brioche- I burned the top in the broiler... oopps!!
                                  standing rib roast with herb crust - good flavor but i think we roasted it for a bit too long.
                                  Wine and demi glace reduction sauce for the meat. everyone liked the horseradish more and the sauce was... mehh... too wine-y and missing the deep beefy glace flavor i was looking for...

                                  Anyway, we had a great time eating and sharing lots of wine. I couldn't love that little party more... they'll eat anything! now i'm at work.. and everyone is still sleeping. i wanna go home!

                                  1. Hits; Chicken Marbella (Silver Palate), beet and goat cheese salad w candied pecans, dried cherries and lemon/shallot vinaigrette dsg (Cooking Light), apple crisp w sweet cream ice cream
                                    Misses; Israeli couscous

                                    1. Just us two. I made a pan-seared loin of venison, with savory polenta (Alton Brown), brussels sprouts with applewood smoked bacon (Tyson or Rachel Ray—same recipe take your pick), roasted cranberries with orange, cinnamon and jalapeno pepper (Gourmet). We had dessert next: I made two cakes—gateau a la orange (oranges, almonds, eggs, orange flower water, sugar) and chocolate chestnut torte (Epicurious). Then we watched a Bogart double feature on TMC (Casablanca and Big Sleep), followed by an assortment of cheeses (La Tur, Rocchetta, Robbiola due latte, Borough Market Stilton, and Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog, with grapes). It was a good day!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: mnosyne

                                        Hands down, the Oreo cookie truffles. And breakfast pancakes with Trader Joe mini peanut butter cups.

                                        The rest was just food.

                                        1. re: dolores

                                          Did you put peanut butter cups IN the pancakes? I love that idea.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            I did, coll. First I sprinkled them on the pancakes as they were setting up. Then I tired of that, and stirred them into the batter, and that worked just as well.

                                            The only caveat is that the griddle has to be scraped and re-buttered between pancakes, or the chocolate burns on the griddle.

                                            I've alternately used Violet Crumble and crushed chocolate chips in my pancakes, but these blew them away.

                                      2. We had dinner at a friend's house and all I had to bring was a veg side. Seems as if it would be easy, but noooooo. I had pre-mixed spices, garlic, and olive oil for Rachel Ray's Chilie Roasted Broccoli. Hey! Rachel Ray, fool proof, right? Well, Rachel hasn't met my...no, no, still full of the Christmas spirit! Everything was pre prepped , just had to dump garlic & oil on trimmed broccoli and sprinkle with pre-mixed spices, which is just what I told DH when he offered to pull it together so I needn't interrupt my conversation. So thoughtful! What I DIDN'T know was that same DH had only packed up HALF of the broccoli from home, which he covered with FULL amount of chilie powder mix ( in my new Le Creuset roasting dish that he got me for Christmas, so he lives still...). Needless to say it was a conversation stopper, "Cough, cough, WOW! That's...ahem... that's spicy isn't it?" and "WOO! that'll clean your sinuses!" were two of the comments to be heard.

                                        1. We had our family Chanukah celebration last night:

                                          mini quiche (hit)
                                          mini bagel dogs with mustard sauce (huge HIT!)
                                          Gravlax with cocktail bread toasts & dill (OK)

                                          Israeli salad - cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions & avocadoes (miss, too much dressing, kinda oily)
                                          Bone-in rib roast (big hit - perfectly med rare, thank goodness for my instant read thermometer as new digital didn't work properly)
                                          Horseradish, sour cream, chive sauce for meat (huge hit, many put it on latkes too!)
                                          Potatos pancakes/latkes (OK, they were frozen and re-heated to save time and this year didn't reheat as crisply as they normally do)
                                          Roasted asparagus with lemon & EVOO - (miss, they got a little overcooked)

                                          Cookie assortment of cut outs, black/white cupcakes, lemon squares (dessert is always a HIT!)

                                          1. Christmas Eve: some Santa Maria pinquito beans I'd been cooking since the day before - they were old - but they finally got done, and delicious. High point was my first crack at establishing The Official Owen Dish for Christmas Eve, the one hole in my closely scripted holiday repertoire. This was Morue à la Savoyarde, a simple but rather tedious-to-make dish of potato, onion and salt cod, but it was so good it was worth it and we'll do it again. A lot.

                                            Christmas Day: bro- and sister-in-law brought a wonderful coconut-ginger-curry soup with shrimp and baby octopi, and a homemade pork paté, for lunch after presents and champagne. Dinner: they continued their contributions with a big mess of real haricots verts (from Costco!) and a gratin of potatoes in cream. Papa cooked the goose, unfortunately in his closed "roaster" so it was really steam-baked, but it was edible. Also, for the third year running, he brought out two more bottles of the '64 Nuits-St.-Georges, which in spite of being poorly cellared and having corks like rotted sponges was still quite good (once we'd strained it). There's still about a case of it left, so the experiment will continue, I'm sure. I made a simple salad, since I didn't shop for it until Wednesday night and bagged stuff was all there was, but it was good. Maman made pecan pie and cheesecake, an odd combination but both good.

                                            Whatever shortcomings there may have been were compensated, in my book, by the fact that Papa let me have the quart of goose fat we poured off!

                                            1. Ours turned out half a dozen of one, six of the other: standing rib roast was good, albeit it a bit cool when it was served, the broccoli rabe with garlic chips took my mother in law by surprise (she may have thought the garlic chips were bread crumbs) but it had a good flavor, assorted roast mushrooms, a hit, roasted asparagus, good, doubled stuffed potatoes, a miss, from what I could discern, only one type of cheese was used and it was too strong of a taste and did not meld with the potatoes. Dessert was creme bruloee for 12; with me using my new mini torch, which worked well. However, I also received metal, teflon coated "stencils" for lack of a better description, and my 5 year old nephew demanded that I place a candy cane stencil on his creme brulee. This consisted of placing the metal stencil on top of the custard, sprinkling the sugar around and torching it. Unfortunately, when the stencil was removed., it tore off a good bit of the now brulee-ed sugar topping. I may have mis read it and perhaps should have torched the custand without the stencil in place. Oh well, brulee shards were enjoyed independ from the creme.

                                              1. Hits:
                                                Lobster on Christmas Eve (although it was dreadfully messy - I would NOT advise using the good tablecloth, and think there may still be lobster shell lodged in the Christmas Tree)
                                                Guinea hen done in muslin per Delia Smith's Christmas cookbook, with lingonberry sauce on the side
                                                English Christmas pudding with hard sauce and whipped cream w/ crystalized ginger (NB: yes, pud was bought. For reference, Walkers with whiskey is a keeper!)
                                                Misses: overcooked greenbeans (that'll teach me to try to do things ahead!)
                                                Bouchon's bibb lettuce salad. Not because it isn't a great salad. Because I ordered my lettuces from a delivery service that shall remain nameless and the lettuce... froze! Humph. Also, I oversalted the salad dressing a bit. Resolution for 2009: resist temptation to salt just a little bit more...

                                                1. Christmas Eve:
                                                  Cranberry-glazed ham was a miss in my book, but I've never cooked a ham and my husband was happy. A big part of the problem was the fact that I waited until the last minute to shop and ended up with a partially cooked ham, which just added to the complication of not knowing what I was doing. Trying to carve skin and fat off of a hot ham was not fun, but Martha said to!

                                                  Served it with old-fashioned scalloped potatoes with leeks and goat cheese, carrots, and green beans with mustard and almonds, all of which were tasty if nothing special. Mince pies with homemade crust and jarred mince were loved by the Brit.

                                                  Christmas Day...
                                                  Duck was a hit, although I'm not sure I'm sold on the idea of cooking a whole duck rather than just breasts. Farro risotto with cherries and pecans was fantastic. Swiss chard cooked in duck fat was the perfect complement to the whole thing. Dessert was supposed to be egg nog ice cream sandwiches, but the ice cream wasn't very good and was still too soft. Cookies were good, though.

                                                  Overall, nothing remarkable, but lots of fun playing in the kitchen all day, so I can't complain. Looking forward to making duck stock and dumplings this weekend!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: cyberroo

                                                    You might want to try the Five Hour Duck that JonParker posted about above - it really is great.


                                                    And, I don't know what plans you have for that duck stock, but I've made a truly delicious duck soup several times with a duck carcass, and my husband pretty much swoons each time:


                                                  2. Such a mixed bag. We had way too much food for DH, BIL and me. Hits were potato rosti ( just crisp enough) and to a lesser extent the roasted root veggies with gremolata ( a bit too much lemon) ..the miss was the 10 lb 3 bone standing rib roast that despite temperature probe was really too rare for my taste..DH cooks and really doesn't eat roast beef ( my request) so I tried to smile and ate the end piece..chocolate pot du creme with chantilly creme was amazing..Today sent at least a rib home with BIL ; had thin sliced RB sandies with Maille mustard and sea salt on toasted wheat bread... and we have one very happy greyhound !!

                                                    1. Christmas gifts for co-workers...miss?:
                                                      I'm not much of a baker but I've been trying to do more of it lately. I decided to make Christmas cookies for my co-workers. I was 4/5 done with baking them when I realized why the texture was off. Silly me thought that 1 stick of butter = 1 cup of butter. Then I thought they would be better if I drizzled them with ganache. Decided to use my new pastry bag and got melted chocolate everywhere. Cookies turned out edible though - just more of a shortbread consistancy than a sugar cookie consistancy. I'll just say they were "low fat"!

                                                      Christmas day dinner hit:
                                                      This was my first Christmas without family (I'm going home over New Year's though!) so I invited some friends over for Christmas dinner who had to work. Only one showed up, and I had cooked up a big pot of beef stew. We were sitting eating and he said "Hey, this is pretty good...what kind of meat did you use, steak? Roast beef?" I told him that I just used stew meat. "Hm....it's really tender. I've never had meat this tender."

                                                      Later on we were on my back patio enjoying an after-dinner cigarette (bad, I know!) and his mom called. "Hey mom...not much...I'm at Amy's for dinner. Yeah...I just had the best beef stew ever. She's a really good cook." Made my lonely Christmas all better!!!!!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Antithesisofpop

                                                        Christmas hits: the cinammon-pecan pull-apart bread that is super easy and assembled the night before in a Bundt pan; scalloped potatoes with three cheeses (epicurious) and creamed spinach. Misses: beef tenderloin with port sauce (epicurious). This recipe calls for a 24 to 36 hour "brining" in the refrigerator, basically covering the meat with kosher salt. You then rub the meat with oil and press on peppercorns and roast. Despite the hype about the brining, we didn't find the meat especially moist and tender and it was actually a tad too salty. Plus I overcooked it for my taste (I like it to moo) but my DH loved it. Also a miss: cinammon caramel bread puddings (epicurious). Made with cinnamon raisin bread, they were too bready and sweet. Using prepared caramel sauce didn't add anything to this combination! Having said all that, it was still a pretty darn good meal.

                                                        1. re: NCetr

                                                          Made the CI Roast Duck with Port Sauce. Weird recipe, but probably the best duck I've ever cooked. Added lingonberries to the port glaze. Everyone loved this dish.

                                                      2. Since I'm veg and my family is not, traditionally I make something vegetarian and crowd-pleasing on Christmas Eve, which I warm up on Christmas and eat instead of turkey, with the trimmings.

                                                        I made two quiches (is that the plural?) one with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and roasted asparagus, and another with aged cheddar and potato. My family liked the tomato/asparatus one better, but I liked the cheese/potato one. They both could have used more fresh herbs. I find it hard to eyeball seasonings when I can't taste a dish.

                                                        On Christmas Eve I also made lemon risotto, which was a huge hit. It was taken directly from Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (I'm sure it's in the omni version) but wouldn't have been a hit if I had used the full amount of lemon juice - half a lemon was plenty. I'm pretty sure I used much less butter than recommended, but it was plenty rich, and next time I might use less salt... Okay, obsessing now. It was near-perfect.

                                                        Christmas morning was raspberry waffles. The family loved them, because they're used to the frozen kind, but they could have been crisper. I don't know whether it was the absence of cooking spray - I had to brush the iron with oil, which seems to deteriorate the crusty-ness of waffles. I think I may need to start whipping my egg whites separately and stirring them back in at the last minute. I'm just so attached to my easy, easy, and may I say EASY scratch waffle recipe. (Heavily adapted from Joy.) Or maybe just a little less liquid? Any thoughts?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Allison_

                                                          There were 5 of us for Christmas dinner. One eats no veg of any kind (although he's faaar too old to be that picky an eater), the rest eat anything.

                                                          I roasted a 5 rib roast from COSTCO and it turned out perfectly. I just stuck the instant-read thermometer in from the beginning and checked ever once in a while. We have lots of leftovers and tonight had soft tacos using some slices off the roast. Aside: In the past year or so Berkeley Bowl has been carrying these wonderful tortillas. Sooo much better than the mass-produced ones. They're called something like Mi Abuelita (my granny) and come in chile and green onion as well as plain. Anyway, the tacos were made with these...really great.

                                                          I roasted some fingerling potatoes I got at COSTCO with some garlic chunks, kosher salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Also very good because they were cooked in the pan with the rib roast.

                                                          I also made the French petit pois dish - frozen petit pois, chopped scallions and shallots and shredded butter lettuce all cooked in butter. How bad could that be? The answer is not bad at all, in fact, delicious.

                                                          My sister brought a chopped salad of celery, parsley, tarragon and chives. It was a perfect counterpart to the rich spuds and roast beef.

                                                          For dessert we had her mince pie made with suet. She's also recently mastered the art of pie crust making and the crust was just amazing.

                                                          We started out with hors d'oeuvres of cold smoked salmon and dill sprigs on that pumpernickel bread that comes sliced thinly in cello packages. The bread was not that great and the salmon was blah.

                                                          All in all, the dinner was just wonderful.

                                                          1. re: Allison_

                                                            My mom always made a nicely crisp waffle and subbed Crisco shortening for half the butter. The milk solids from the butter make it tender, the Crisco crisps it up.

                                                          2. Xmas Eve
                                                            Impromptu lunch at home following a drink at Borough market with a friend. I raided my store cupboard and we had wild boar and chestnut paté, cheese, bread and salad, washed down with mulled wine, while listening to the traditional Christmas Eve Carol service from King's College, Cambridge on the radio. It's not Christmas without it, and King's is also my alma mater, so pretty much compulsory.....

                                                            Christmas Eve dinner - we were still full from lunch, but managed to force down lobster spaghetti with cherry tomatoes (Gordon Ramsay recipe, pretty good).

                                                            Xmas Day
                                                            Traditional British Xmas dinner but with capon instead of turkey. It was beautifully moist. Served with Nigella's perfect roast potatoes cooked in goose fat, glazed honeyed carrots (Gordon Ramsay - v. nice), brussel sprouts, chestnut stuffing (Delia Smith), roast parsnips, pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon) and giblet gravy. We had scallops with garlic butter for a starter, and Christmas pud for afters.

                                                            Boxing Day
                                                            Canapés - smoked salmon on wholemeal bread with horseradish creme fraiche and pickled cabbage (Nigella). Mini quiches (shop bought). Washed down with a poinsettia cocktail - cointreau, prosecco and cranberry juice - a hit and a great ice-breaker!

                                                            Then: Honey glazed ham (Gordon Ramsay recipe - really wonderful), winter coleslaw (Delia's Xmas), potato, parsnip and porcini gratin (Nigella - nice but very rich), Asian Broccoli Salad (Delia again). Various chutneys and pickles.

                                                            Followed by a cheese platter and then a fantastic prosecco jelly with pomegranate seeds (Nigella) and a beautifully moist Xmas cake (Nigella again).

                                                            So it looks like I can heartily recommend Nigella Christmas and Delia's Christmas!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              That all sounds wonderful. I listened to the King's College service while cooking on Wednesday! I still need to post about it, but I've really liked the several things that I've cooked from Elizabeth David's Christmas this week (Spicy beef loaf, Cumberland Sauce, Potted Shrimp, and a soup). That prosecco jelly sounds interesting - I made a chardonnay raspberry jelly of hers over the summer, and couldn't get it to set.

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                I think the alcohol makes it harder to set, basically. I used eight leaves but they were from different packets, so some were much bigger than others, but it seemed to be alright. She does say that it's a very soft set, and it was very wibbly. Looked a bit like an alien on the plate! I love jellies after a rich meal - very clean and refreshing.

                                                                So do they broadcast the carol service on PBS as well then? It is very beautiful. Me and my friend were extras in the televised version one year - my granny was very excited!

                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                  It was on NPR (public radio). I did use gelatin leaves when I made that jelly, but it didn't even get wibbly! The flavors were wonderful and we ate the wine soaked raspberries. Maybe I'll try with a few more gelatin leaves next time.

                                                            2. Hits

                                                              Christmas Eve

                                                              Gingerbread Fruit Salad cake

                                                              Christmas Day--pork loin roast, which was b/i when I bought it, but I decided on Christmas Eve to de-bone it. I seasoned it, inserted garlic slivers all over, then made a marinade of tart cherry preserves, cream, a little Sherry, thyme, cracked Telicherry pepper, Cayenne...rubbed that into the meat, pour the rest over it, wrapped it tight in foil over night. Tied it before roasting, a little more Sherry in the bottom of a ceramic roaster, 20 minutes at 425 until beautifully browned, then turned the over down to 280 until the meat thermometer registered 150, took it out to rest. Tender, juicy, and popular...not a scrap left over.

                                                              Chicken tenderloins a la Cotentin, simmered in cider and stock with diced shallots and mushrooms, sauce then reduced with cream. Also a hit.


                                                              Hasselback potatoes. I made these often, sometimes simmering the cut potatoes before roasting, sometimes not, just straight into the roasting pan. This time I decided to cook them to tender stovetop first, but I forgot about them and they got a little too tender (understatement; some broke apart when I went to drain them). So, I broke them up and roasted them with some honey, orange zest and juice, and sage. People liked them, so I guess it was a good salvage operation. I guess one could say the roast potatoes were a hit, but the Hasselbacks were a miss.

                                                              Rustic apple galette--very happy with the consistency of the crust, but the crust had little flavor (too little salt and sugar), as did the apples (probably a bit too old). It was something I decided to make at the very last minute, and put it together to bake while we ate, just because I had some apples to use up. Next time I'll make sure to do it only if the apples are in their prime.

                                                              But mostly a great success with little food left over.

                                                              Hope everyone enjoyed their day and their successes.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. I think everything was just as we'd envisioned and even better in some cases. For Christmas Eve we had a simple menu that I cooked just for my SO and myself: pan-fried scallops wrapped in parma ham with some endives, cherry tomatoes and olives for starters. Main was a spinach, courgette, buffarella and sundired tomatto fritatta with red camargue rice, asparagus and cashew nuts and no dessert as we were saving ourselves for the big day )I am glad we did!)

                                                                Xmas Day menu was home-made Argentinian-style empanadas (one filled with creamy sweetcorn, onions, garlic, raisins and mixed spices and the other one with buffarella, sundried tomatoes and basil). These were served with a green salad. Main was definetely a big hit: Honey-roasted duck and pheasant with lots of fresh herbs and spices served with a red wine and plum sauce (so delicious), roasted potatoes, parsnips, broccoli and leeks. Dessert was certainly a big hit: white chocolate and mascarpone cheesecake with pecan nuts and a warm dulce de leche sauce. It was a great meal all in all and everyone had a happy face after polishing it all off which is always a good sign!

                                                                1. Hit: Scalloped Oysters

                                                                  Scalloped Oysters have been a Christmas tradition in my family beginning with my grandmother. I use her recipe- oysters, buttered saltine crumbs, cream, oyster liquor, Worcheseter sauce, salt, pepper.

                                                                  On Christmas Eve I sent my husband to get the oysters. I forgot to tell him I wanted standard oysters. He came back with beautiful, plump selects. I'll never use standard oysters again. I loved the larger oysters, they were delicious

                                                                  1. Hit: The au gratin potato recipe I got on this website

                                                                    Miss: Waiting for the honey baked ham to be delivered on christmas eve. It arrived 45 min before my guests and it was still mostly frozen. Had to thaw in the oven which made all the wonderful glaze melt to a puddle at the bottom of the pan. Next time I will drive the 20 miles to the HB Ham store - or do my own.