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Boxing Day party: Menu ideas, please

Hello,

My husband is British and we live in Boston. We'll be staying Stateside for Christmas, so we decided to throw a small (15 or so guests) Boxing Day party to bring some of the Old Country here.

We know that Boxing Day doesn't have a traditional menu (besides, perhaps, Christmas leftovers), so I'd just like to tap this forum's imagination: If Boxing Day had a menu, what would it be? If you were to throw a Boxing Day party, what would you make? What other flourishes (eg favors, music, etc.) would you include?

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  1. Indeed, it's probably our usual national custom for it to be leftovers on Boxing Day. And, indeed, my partner & I have often cooked a repeat Xmas Day meal just for the two of us (having spent Xmas Day itself having a "family thing".)

    However, for a party I would move away from whatever is "traditonal food" in your part of the world for Xmas Day (I appreciate that, looking at Home Cooking threads, America's wide cultural diversity means that "traditional" may not apply as It does in the UK).

    You don't indicate if this is a sit-down meal or party buffet so I think I'll recommend a mix of both. Do some canapes which can double as the meal's starter - smoked salmon & soured cream on blinis is a hit in this household. Slices of quiche would be another. For a main course, definitely something easy to prepare - a homely dish, perhaps. We'll be braising some beef. For dessert, I'd really suggest a sherry trifle - aside from a heavy Xmas Pudding, there isnt a more celebratory British dessert than trifle.

    I have an idea for a "flourish". The name of "Boxing Day" is believed to possibly relate to the day when live-in servants would get their Christmas presents (or Christmas box) from their employers (and would be getting a day off from work). On the assumption that many of your guests will be American and not appreciate the nature of the holiday, how about giving them a little gift box, by way of explanation?

    Bear in mind, for the religious, Boxing Day is also the Feast of St Stephen so it is Day 2 of the season's indulgence.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      These are great ideas. Thank you! The food will be casual buffet/snacks. Funny you suggested blinis with smoked salmon - that speaks to my Russian Jewish side!

      I am going to look for little gift boxes and fill them with tea or nuts, perhaps.

      We are going to visit a British grocer about 40 minutes drive from Boston (called British Delights), and I will look for ideas there.

      1. re: rekha6

        Great idea filling them with tea. Our traditional drink I suppose (although most folk drink coffee now, I understand). Maybe make a play on the Boston Tea Party somehow, as that's your part of the world. Great city,by the way, we visited earlier in the year.

        Smoked salmon came to the UK via Russian Jews, of course, so there's a great link with your heritage. Traditionally, we'd eat with ordinary brown bread, rather than blinis, a squeeze of lemon and a good grind of black pepper.

    2. I will be serving a ham, a big salad of chopped raddichio and endive, a big casserole of macaroni and cheese (we're Bermudian, have to have that!) baking powder biscuits, chutneys, leftover gravlax with brown soda bread, leftover stilton and crackers, a pavlova with cranberry sauce, and fruitcake.

      I think trifle is a brilliant idea too, my mother always made one at Christmas. The only reason I'm not making one is that I would eat all the leftovers...

      1. We do Boxing Day every year, too. (Mine is from Manchester). We've done every.damn.thing. We have anywhere from 15-50 people for an open house and we've done something different every year. We do a buffet-type set up (we've done chilis and curries and tacos and soups and all sorts...this year it's going to be all food on sticks...), but one thing we do is since Boxing Day was the traditional day for the higher-ups to take 'round the gift boxes for the employees and tenants, we collect a canned food donation from all our guests and add them to our 'Christmas Box' to donate to the food pantry...trying to embrace the spirit of the thing, you know.
        You know, our best one (and most expensive, duh), was a 'carvery.' Hunks of bread, sliced cheese, mustard and chutney and pickle, and a couple of hunks of meat (I think it was a roast beef, a ham, and a turkey breast). You could do salmon or pork loin, too. Went over really well.

        1. Funny, tonifi, I had the same idea, to collect a canned food donation for our local food pantry. My husband initially thought that was complicating things (we have a little baby so we generally aim for simplicity), but now that we've seen your post we've decided to do it as well.

          Athena, I actually have a recipe for soda bread, and since you and Harters both mentioned salmon I think it must happen.

          As for the trifle, are they ever made in opaque dishes? I have one that's the right shape but it isn't clear. If you have a good recipe, please do share.

          Your responses made us happy and made my husband feel a little less in exile - I love this forum. Thank you. I look forward to more ideas, and I will post our final menu if it turns out to be worth posting.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rekha6

            Trifle is always better in a glass bowl, so you can see the layers. We are traditionalists in this respect and Mrs Harters makes the trifle as my Mum used to.

            Layer of trifle sponges in the bottom. Big splash of sweet sherry (No, bigger than that - you want to really taste the sherry). Layer of tinned peach slices. It has to be tinned - fresh would be just wrong. Jelly on top (doesnt matter if it's raspberry or strawberry - the important thing is that it tastes red). Thick layer of custard on top of that. Thick layer of whopped double cream on top of that. And finished with a sprinkle of "hundreds & thousands". Perfect. You'll need to make an early start - the Harters trifle is started Xmas Eve so the jelly can set. Finished off Christmas Day, so it's ready to be eaten Christmas Night (when *that* feeling has worn off - you know the one - the feeling that you never want to eat anything ever again)

          2. Harters has made some excellent suggestions up-thread as you note. I especially loved his idea for a party favour along w the history he shared.

            I've done a number of BD brunches/cocktail parties over time and through trial and error have learned:

            - most folks stuffed themselves the day before so a lighter, appetizer type menu is perfectly suited
            - finger foods work well (vs a sit down meal) as mingling is a top priority since many guests tend to be from out of town and only see one another once a year
            - folks seem to have had enough of Christmas music at this point so jazz, classical or something softer for background music seems to work best. That said, keeping your theme in mind, I wonder if the Queen's Jubilee Concert Soundtrack is out on cd/itunes yet....

            Keeping your British theme in mind, menu items/suggestions that have been a hit over the years:

            - miniature Yorkshire puddings stuffed w rare roast beef and topped w horseradish cream

            - a Ploughman's Lunch board

            - Scotch Eggs (cut in half)

            - Melton Mowbray Pies (I purchase minis and cut them in quarters

            - Mini sausage rolls (I mix this up a bit by using chorizo or andouille sausage) - served w mustard alongside

            - a vegetable platter (you could use English Salad Creme as your dip)

            As for other flourishes, our tradition over the years has been to ask guests to bring a "re-gift" item or two (gifts they've received but don't need or want). These items are then put on display and claimed by someone else or just made fun of. Anything that's leftover (and often most are!!) are donated to charity. This table is always the most anticipated part of the day. It's hilarious to see some of the gifts people have received and to hear the stories that go along with them.

            Enjoy!!

            7 Replies
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Great ideas, Breadcrumbs.

              I particularly like the idea of the veggie platter using Salad Cream(assuming it can be found in the Brit shop rekha is visiting.. Heinz Salad Cream is one of those things that divide us - Mrs H, working class girl that she is, loves it, while I, from my middle class background wouldnt have anything other than mayo.

              Which gives me another idea to add to the list - the fishfinger sandwich. So easy and such a classic. Nothing more than fishfingers served hot(can't recall what Americans call them, sorry). White sliced bread. Salad Cream (or ketchup). We even had these served as part of a buffet at the posh wedding of a friends daughter a couple of years back.

              1. re: Harters

                We didn't grow up w salad cream either Harters though we wouldn't have needed it since my Mom (Mum) preferred her vegetables cooked until almost indiscernible. It wasn't until years later, after watching episodes of Faulty Towers that I decided to give it a try. Now it's a "must have" when we do British themed menus and through the summer months when we always seem to be able to put it to good use!

                Love the idea of fish fingers (fish sticks) served on bread w salad cream and we'll have to give that a try. My grandfather was a fishmonger and owned a fish shop and though I seem to have inherited his love of fish and seafood, unfortunately I haven't yet mastered the perfect fish batter.

                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  Ah, yes, I'm also of the generation where mothers thought it was impossible to overcook vegetables. Mine could boil anything to a mush and then add copious amounts ( and I mean *copious* amounts) of butter.

                  Mrs H's mother, who is still around, is another one who believes that you will become ill from eating any meat that hasnt been cooked within an inch of its life - and then a lot more. Unfortunately, she also bakes. Her pies could happily substitute for an Olympic discus and her scones for a shotput.

                  Mercifully, they never got to jointly prepare a meal.

                  1. re: Harters

                    <<Mercifully, they never got to jointly prepare a meal.>>

                    I read your post aloud to mr bc. For our first "married" Christmas we cast better judgement to the wind and invited both mothers over for Christmas dinner. There were a number of reasons this never happened again but one that we still talk about today was the shock and disdain they both expressed when they tasted my glazed carrots and roasted Brussels sprouts.

                    My mother: "Oooh, did you forget about these carrots dear"

                    Me: "What do you mean"

                    My mother: "Did you forget to cook them? They're too hard to eat"

                    My M-I-L: "Yes, and the sprouts are hard too. I like mine boiled and then I warm up some mushroom soup and pour that on top"

                    My mother: "Do you have any mushroom soup dear, I can "fix" these in the micro"

                    My M-I-L, already on her feet w the serving dish in hand: "Oh yes, let's fix them for her"

                    ...needless to say, copious amounts of wine were consumed that evening!

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      My sympathies, Bc.

                      The concept of sprouts (something I generally don't like at the best of times) and mushroom soup sounds completely vile.

                      1. re: Harters

                        You should have "seen" it Harters. It looked like something the cat coughed up.

                        An undiluted tin of mushroom soup was used and not stirred properly either. A disgusting, chunky greyish green mix that still makes my stomach turn when I think of it!!

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Ahha. Another transatlantic linguistic difference. You have something "the cat coughed off". We have something the "dog brought up" or it being a "dog's breakfast".

            2. We did a Boxing day dinner for a number of years when we couldn't get the whole family together, and the most successful dinner of all was the time we made a porchetta. Yes, I know it's not British, but it is something delicious that needs to be made for a crowd.

              1. Hot damn! I have to save this thread...next year we are so totally doing a Ploughman's board. What a great excuse to buy cheese. And I agree, rekha6, I just love this forum. I spend about half my time on chowhound wishing for a 'like' button. In my life I've found that I usually prefer the company of people who read. Now I'm finding that I also really love people who cook. And make me laugh. A lot.

                2 Replies
                1. re: tonifi

                  Sort of on-topic, tonifi, seeing as your partner is from Manchester. Ask her/him if s/he knows the Royal Oak in Didsbury. It's a pub which does the most incredibly large ploughman's lunches (or you can get a "half and half" - pate & cheese). Absolutely mega. The only place I know which leaves doggy bags out on the serving counter for you. Five minutes away from me.

                  By the by, Breadcrumbs' suggestion for the Ploughmans and the other items are pretty much the basis for a "pub lunch party". All you'd need would be some British beers or ciders.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Harters, your trifle is just how my mother made hers :-)

                    Breadcrumbs - that MIL story is too funny!