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Dec 22, 2010 09:32 PM

My first time cooking Xmas dinner, ideas appreciated!

Hey everyone,

I've gotten so much amazing advice from this board, I thought I'd reach out again. It's my first time cooking Xmas dinner on my own, since my mother unfortunately could not make the trip to my new home. Normally, I've left all the executive decisions up to her and earned my meal ticket as her sous-chef of sorts. Now, the weight is on my shoulders and I could use some ideas for what to cook. I'm going to be cooking for about four people, and have a great kitchen to cook in. So, what do you guys cook at home? Oh, and no one coming for dinner eats pork or red meat, so unfortunately Christmas ham is out!


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  1. I'm trying to decide myself. These are what I've been thinking of:

    Standing rib roast
    Mashed potatoes
    Green beans

    Baked ham
    Sweet potatoes (mashed)
    English peas
    Good mustard and maybe some maple syrup

    With either menu include a relish tray with celery and carrot sticks, green and black olives, and some radishes.

    Both menus are easy to prepare but tend to wow the guests. The only thing you need to be careful of is the carving of the meat. If you're unsure about carving, do it in the kitchen out of sight and serve it sliced on a platter.

    1. Holiday meals are fraught with tradition that vary from family to family and region to region. Some people do tamales, some people do lasagna, some people do standing rib roast, but that doesn't mean that any of those would be right for you. What kinds of foods does your family like or expect?

      1. I'm serving ;
        Horseradish encrusted beef tenderloin
        green beans almondine
        butternut squash w sage hazelnut pesto
        mashed potatoes
        homemade french bread and

        Lime mousse pie for dessert.
        Merry Christmas!

        1. Euonymous has tradition down pat. No question, make those recipes happen and your guests will be happy.

          As an alternative:

          Mole poblano (perhaps with leftover Thanksgiving turkey?)
          Tamales (1 per person will do)
          various appropriate fixins: guacamole,hand rolled tortillas, whatever remaining garden chilis you have made into salsa, some kind of salad

          Various chacouterie: salamis, procuttio, etc, cheeses, and homemade bread
          pasta w/rabbit & veal ragu (you may need a ham hock other source of fat, but a basic pasta sauce with those meats is extremely tasty) (or a lasagne)
          roast [whatever] that can be cooking in the oven while everything else hangs out uncooked or on the stovetop.

          Good luck!

          13 Replies
          1. re: lex clibanus

            Do you have a good mole recipe? That sounds amazing.

            1. re: SouthToTheLeft

              Well, sorta. Diana Kennedy's recipes are a pretty solid blueprint (naturally,a few family tweaks over the years have occurred...) Couldn't find the exact basic recipe online, but this looks reasonably close, minus the french bread:


              I hope it works for you! (and yes, it may look intimidating. This is how my family started using all those excellent t-day leftovers in a more productive, not-in-July way. But it's worth it!


              Good luck!

              1. re: lex clibanus

                I made turkey mole enchiladas and used the mole in a jar. I thinned it with chicken broth and some tomato sauce because it was a little to "nutty" tasting. It was great--everyone cleaned their plates.

            2. re: lex clibanus

              Euonymous has tradition down pat. No question, make those recipes happen and your guests will be happy.
              As I noted, everyone's tradition is different. If I served that menu everyone would be bored out of their minds and I'd lose all foodie cred. Roast meat/potatoes/out-of-season green beans/peas -- I know it's traditional WASP Christmas fare, but certainly not for everyone.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Agreed, Ruth. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, our younger daughter and her brand new husband were with us. HE wanted the traditional T'giving meal. *I* was bored out of MY mind. When we do it at all, it's an old Sunset menu for a SW menu. Turkey done on indirect with lime juice and oregano, Anaheim chiles stuffed with chorizo, jack, mushrooms,etc., grated sweet potatoes cooked in butter and tequila. He was happy but it ain't happenin' again on my watch :)

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Bored out of their minds? Seriously? Why can't someone who enjoys the unusual, the exotic, and the adventurous also sometimes appreciate the homey, the simple, and the traditional?

                  It isn't necessary that every meal push boundaries or expand culinary horizons. IMO there's something wrong with a cook who can't take pride in a perfectly-roasted prime rib (or chicken or turkey or goose or pork crown). And there is no mercy in my heart for guests who turn their noses up at such a dish because it's "boring." That's nothing but snobbery, pure and simple.

                  I like good food of all kinds. A meal full of unusual ingredients, innovative preparations, and complex layers of flavor is a thing of joy and beauty. But tomorrow I'll proudly serve roast meat alongside potatoes and vegetables, some of which may even be out of season. Anybody who wants to take my foodie credentials on that account can have them.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Good for you, I hope you and your dining companions enjoyed your meal. But I was just taking issue with the idea that "everyone" would be happy with that menu. People are different, traditions are different.

                      Okay, I was overstating, and boring is the wrong word to describe that menu -- generic might be better: no individuality, no seasonality, nothing distinctive about it at all. I'm happy to serve a perfectly roasted piece of meat (although my budget would never stretch to prime rib), I'm happy to serve all of the dishes individually (except for the out-of-season green beans, which don't -- IMHO -- belong on the table in December), but roast beef, mashed potatoes and green beans sound like something you'd be served in every diner, every buffet, heck every hospital, in America. It just doesn't sound particularly appetizing to me, no matter how expertly prepared.

                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                      No one has ever left the table hungry or unhappy when I make those meals. They're pretty much a once a year deal, so we enjoy them when we get them. I'm baking a ham tonight, which will be served with cole slaw instead of peas (does that make it better?)

                      Trying to decide what the heck I'm going to do with the rest of the huge frickin' ham.

                      Alanbarnes, are you hungry?

                      1. re: Euonymous

                        Always. Who was it that said "eternity is two people and a ham"?

                          1. re: Gio

                            She has so many great food and drink quips. My favorite:

                            I like to have a martini
                            Two at the very most
                            After three I'm under the table
                            After four I'm under the host

                    3. re: lex clibanus

                      I did a fancy Mexican Christmas a few years back and started with these crepes. They were a huge hit. (substituted creminis for shiitakes.)


                    4. If no one eats pork or red meat, you are left with fish or fowl. I'm doing roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing with sausage, apples, and cranberries, lemon green beans, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, turkey gravy, rolls, and pear/apple crumble for dessert. You could do turkey or you could have cornish hens. I don't know your level of cooking experience, but the one thing I learned from having melt downs on big holidays was to plan ahead and don't make several really complicated recipes. I stick with the basics and try to do one dish each year that's different. I also try and prep as many things ahead of time as possible.

                      If I'm going to have a big meal with a new dish being served, I try it out a couple of weeks ahead of time to see how it's going to turn out. More often than not, I end up tweaking the recipe some. The main thing to remember is to have a good time and enjoy your guests and enjot providing a good meal for your guests.