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Nov 28, 2011 05:01 PM

Help me throw a fantastic Christmas dinner for my family!

I am known as the "gourmet" among my family mostly because I'm the only one who's not too lazy to make good food from scratch, not because I am special or the greatest cook ever to have been in the family. For Christmas we have agreed to have dinner at my house (I often host "dinner parties" for our twenty-something friends, but that's mostly just getting together to have recipes tested on them) and split the cost of ingredients with me cooking. I prefer this as I like to have a few drinks (makes that side of the family a fair more bearable) and I prefer to be at home. I like getting credit for making things that people normally won't make for themselves(just being honest here) and a decent portion of the family are pescatarians, eating only sustainably harvested seafood. 12-14 of us total. I'm terrified of running out of food

My plan (as it is now!) is:
Crostini with baked goat cheese, roasted garlic, oven dried tomatoes, fig jam, etc (these are pretty standard in my repertoire, I'll just make a lot - thinking I need 2-3 baguettes)
Additional roasted garlic bread for the remainder of the meal
Caesar Salad (from scratch, CI recipe - double batch)
Steamed Mussels (Ina's recipe - 1/2lb per person)
Crimini and 2 cheese ravioli and tomato sauce (my own recipe - not sure how many we need each?! - sauce recipe is whatever the tomato-onion-butter one is)
Tiramisu (CI recipe in my trifle bowl)

Do you see any bad ideas here? I'm thinking I can make the dressing and croutons for the salad ahead of time then just toss with dressing, prep everything for the mussels and they only take a couple minutes, have the ravioli prepped and frozen so i just have to toss them in boiling water, remove to plates, top with sauce & serve. The trifle can be made well ahead of time and just refrigerated until ready to serve.

Any better suggestions? Please all the input you have!

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  1. I would skip the two courses of mussels and ravioli and combine them. Perhaps mussels or clams, shrimp and cod in a sauce that complements the ravioli. That way you aren't running around TOO much. After all, you're even more of the gourmet if you make it look effortless. And it sounds like your meal will be plenty filling, so don't worry about that! Assuming you do a roughly 3-inch round ravioli, you could do 4 each and be fine. If you do smaller ones, 6-8? Then a few food good luck, but if people want extra sauce, then can always enjoy it with the garlic bread (or even have a box of pasta handy if they devour all of the ravioli and want more sauce.

    1. i don't know what your family is like in terms of how they like to balance their meals, but i'd want a green vegetable in there - maybe a simple side of garlicky broccoli rabe with olive oil & a pinch of red pepper flakes...?

      1 Reply
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        I was thinking the same thing. I'd throw a bunch of baby spinach in the tomato sauce at the end just to wilt.

        Agree about the caesar salad, I've done the same thing many times and it comes together quickly. Also agree about ravioli plan.

        The menu sounds just a bit carb-heavy for me. An app that appeals to me would be something like black bean and corn cakes, served with salsa and sour cream. I think I saw this on Emeril one time, but (and GHG would be better at putting together a fab recipe) I'd say include cumin, coriander, cilantro, lime juice, flour and/or egg to bind. They'd be easy to keep in the fridge, then wam in the oven.

        Another possibility is deviled eggs, esp. if you're concerned you won't have enough. Although I don't think that's a concern at all, you have plenty.

      2. How are you planning on serving? Buffet? Family style or plated? if it's plated, you may want to try Ina's provencal scallops which may be easier to eat than the mussels and serve them alongside the ravioli (think four or five a plate). if it's buffet or family style- maybe shrimp scampi. Because there are some more buttery heavy flavors, you may want to change up the salad to something lighter. Butter lettuce with pears in a champagne vinaigrette.

        1. Thanks for the suggestions!

          I love the idea of scallops served alongside the ravioli. I also like the idea of broccoli rabe. I've never cooked it before though. Steam and the sauté with seasonings or roast it in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes?

          I'll do some experimenting with different salads over the next couple weeks to see about something lighter if it seems overly rich.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LaureltQ

            blanch the broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for a few minutes to remove the bitterness and tenderize it a bit first. drain well, and then you can season and finish cooking it on the stove or in the oven.

            to saute: i like to warm some olive oil in a pan over medium heat, toss in smashed garlic cloves and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant and flavors the oil. remove the garlic, increase the heat to medium-high, add the red pepper flakes and blanched broccoli rabe, and saute for a couple of minutes until it begins to caramelize a bit. finish with sea salt and serve.

            if roasting, preheat oven to 425, toss broccoli rabe with olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes & sea salt, and roast on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes, turning once.

            in terms of ingredient proportions, for a one-pound bunch of broccoli rabe i use about 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 large clove of garlic, and anywhere from a small pinch to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on the heat tolerance of the eaters). salt to taste - probably about 1/4 teaspoon.

            a couple of tips - be sure to trim any really woody ends, and cut the broccoli rabe into large 2- or 3-inch pieces before cooking. also, if you don't have anyone with seafood allergies, i like to sneak in a minced anchovy or a touch of paste. melt it into the oil with the red pepper flakes in the saute pan, or mix it in with the oil & garlic before tossing the broccoli rabe in it for roasting. you don't taste anchovy, it just adds another level/complexity to the flavor.

            a pound will serve about 4 people as a side.

          2. For me, this menu seems really dairy heavy. It includes goat cheese, caesar salad which generally has Parmesan, cheese raviolis and tiramisu which is loaded with dairy. Perhaps, that is what people like, but for me this feels really heavy.

            Agree with a green vegetable, but broccoli rape is really expensive. I might consider something like spinach, broccoli or cabbage if your budget is more limited.