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Dec 22, 2013 04:53 AM

How to arrange a Christmas menu

I grew up in Asia and usually my family had a lunch/dinner together without being specifically get a Christmas menu. This year, being away from home and family, me and my 2 housemates are planning to have a homemade Christmas lunch. It's a plan with short notice as initially we plan to dine out but finally decided to save money and home-cooking are more enjoyable. We are planning for a soup, an appetizer, a main dish, a dessert, and maybe wine or some other drink.

What we don't know is whether there are any specific food or ingredient that make it so "Christmas". For example, I notice that most of the mains consists of roasts (meat, chicken or ham). What about fish like salmon? I'm currently in charge of selecting menu and I'm quite specific to make it very "Christmas". Although fish can be an option, but if it's not so "Christmas", I will choose other option. Also it seems cranberry sauce is a common ingredients. Kind explanation is greatly appreciated!

The second question is the menu idea itself. Most Christmas recipe I browsed caters for a family. Our kitchen is small. We have small but enough equipments to cater food for 3. There is a small oven toaster enough to roast some small batch of meat or chicken, a hand blender comes with whisk attachment, and a food processor. Being said that, the dessert must be a no-bake one, I guess. Also, I'm not sure whether oven toaster can bake wellington well enough.. There is only another 2 days to prepare, so we greatly appreciate any advises.

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  1. Traditonal Christmas food is very dependent on culture. What may be commonplace for the meal in my country, may well hardly grace a table in another country.

    The important thing is that the meal should be celebratory. From what you say, there is no specific Christmas foods in your own culture. But are there any in those of your housemates? Could that form a basis for the meal?

    Of course, if you can think of something which you can cook well and that everyone is going to really enjoy, then the heck with traditions, just get on and cook it.Have a great day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Harters

      Harters, thank you for the kind advise that the meal should be celebratory and enjoyable. All 3 of us are coming from the same country, our root are on Chinese culture but we are living at a country with diversed culture. Christmas celebration here is heavily influenced by western style, hence I see lots of roasts and cranberry menus.. :)

      We finally decided on a mixed meal everyone favors and end it up with a touch of Japanese dessert. It may not matched but we will be enjoying it a lot! :)

    2. Salmon sounds great -- and I am sure it is traditional somewhere... As Harters said, Christmas traditions vary wildly from place to place and heritage to heritage.

      It seems like you want your meal to help you celebrate together. Maybe each roommate can volunteer to cook a favorite family dish? Talk it over and see if you can put together a meal that sounds good to all of you. Then, when you sit down together and eat, and toast to good friends, you will have a fine Christmas meal.

      As for the cranberry sauce -- I think it goes well with turkey, but I also think that turkey and cranberries are more of a Thanksgiving tradition in the US.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DebinIndiana

        Deb, I took your advise and discuss it with them. For the main course, they immediately said roast chicken and I can work out for cranberry sauce :) In the country we live in, the society follows western tradition closely and almost everywhere we saw restaurants offers some roasted chicken with thick cranberry sauce.

        1. re: moccy

          Roast chicken and cranberry sauce sounds very good. It is fun to try new foods -- I hope the cranberry sauce is a hit!

          I have never made a roast chicken in a toaster oven -- you may want to cut it up into pieces to make sure it gets done.

          I think you are making some good memories with your roommates -- Happy Holidays!

          1. re: DebinIndiana

            Deb, I finally cooked the chicken in the Le Creuset dutch oven, stove top. I used butter mixed with herbs. Maybe I put too much herbs it's bitter. And I only season the inside so it's bland. For the sauce, I'm following a cranberry port sauce but I thought I can substitute the port with any red wine. I used Merlot cabernet and the sauce turned very bitter. At least the cranberry still gave some sweetness. I should have used marsala instead.

            Nevertheless we were quite satisfied with the first attempt.

            1. re: moccy

              Merry Christmas to you all! Your dinner looks lovely! I'm glad you enjoyed your first attempt -- a meal does not have to be perfect to be a great celebration. Maybe you and your roommates will decide to make the dinner a monthly event. There is always some holiday to celebrate.

              It could be that you and your housemates just don't enjoy the taste of cranberries -- it may be an acquired pleasure. If you try again, you might wish to think of the sauce as a kind of sweet and sour sauce, where you need quite a bit of sweet to balance the sour berries.

              By the way, your lovely dinner hit me with a pang of memory -- my mother served many dinners on that set of white dishes with green flowers, oh, many years ago.

      2. Oh my - Please move this to Home Cooking as you will get more answers there, but, yes indeed. Cook at home will be a treat.

        If you're not used to cranberries, then do a taste test before you commit to making them. I love them.

        I agree that a holiday meal is in order, not necessarily Christmas. Organize the meal with your housemates and make a meal that you'll all enjoy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JerryMe

          Hi Jerry, I posted here because I think it's more to a general topic on knowing the tradition rather than the meal itself.. thanks for your suggestion. We ended up organizing a menu we love.. :) It will be the first time we ever organize a fine meal on our own, no doubt we will enjoy it!

        2. In a lot of Western cuisines, roasts are holiday foods because historically, eating a big chunk of meat was a special occasion for a lot of people, and also because roasts are something that (with an oven) are relatively easy to cook for a lot of people - a large roast is just as easy as a small one, but takes longer.

          Of course, in an Asian kitchen with a toaster oven, cooking roasts is not all that practical (not that that stops me from cooking a turkey, but turkey dinner in a toaster oven is not a meal for novices. :-)) Cranberries (along with turkey) are North American in origin, and fruit with roasts is a very old tradition in European cuisine that's not common now.

          For seafood - there's the Italian feast of the 7 fishes, which is traditional for Christmas Eve meal, so you can see there's lots of variety between cultures. Of course, 7 fish dishes is overkill for three people.

          If you have access to good seafood at a decent price, for a festive but not too complicated seafood dish, what about insalata di mare, (aka Italian seafood salad), which is a mix of cooked seafood (squid, shimp, shelfish) and vegetables, dressed simply in oil and vinegar or lemon juice. It's very adaptable to the ingredients available, and requires only stovetop cooking. Have a cream of asparagus soup for the first course (a hand blender works for this), which is simple but delicious, then the salad, with a good crusty bread to mop up the juices,

          1 Reply
          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

            Hello, thank you for the thorough explanation! It's interesting to hear about the italian 7 fishes! Wow.. On your suggestion, we decided to have the seafood salad as appetizer, following a recipe of smoked salmon and shrimp dressed with wasabi cream (we don't have horseradish) and lime vinegraitte salad. As we have fish for appetizer, we'll opt for meat for the mains. One of the housemate loves the simple mushroom soup so we'll have it with good crusty bread! :)

          2. Ditto on tradition. In my family (of Polish extraction) the big Christmas celebration was actually the night before. In religious terms, Christmas Eve is a day of fast and abstinence, which means that one has one enormous feast (for some reason it has to be an odd number of courses), and vegetarian (although fish is allowed). Italians have a similar custom, known as Seven Fishes.

            Liturgically, Christmas is a feast day, so make what you would for a special occasion. A friend from Texas always serves tamales, since that's his special occasion food. The Church is (per se) universal: do whatever is festive for you.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tardigrade

              Tardigrade, thank you for the encouragement. In our families, Christmas is usually just dining out with family, no special cuisine nor home-cooking. However since we are currently away from family we want to make it special. I agree with your last statement: It's about the festive.