Home for the Holidays, Part 3: Favorite Recipes and Traditional Dishes
By now most of us have finished our decorations and are focused on last minute shopping and waiting by the door for the mailman, UPS, FedEx, or now Prime Trucks. With every online order, there is always a disclaimer that says, due to the pandemic, delivery times may vary or be delayed. I don’t think there is a better reason to encourage you to shop local and support small businesses whenever possible.
Now is time to start to plan your Holiday Menu. Do you have the same menu each year? On Christmas Eve, many Italian families serve the Feast of the 7 Fishes. The origin of this tradition is debatable; there are a number of plausible theories, and it makes for great table conversation! This year, with small family gatherings it might be too much to consume alone! I recommend choosing three of your favorites as a way of pairing down the menu sensibly. For Christmas Day Prime Rib, Filet Mignon or Ham are often the traditional entrees. This year, cooking for a smaller group may allow you to try something different!
One of my favorite memories is the year my husband and I decided to make Beef Wellington for Christmas Day. Beef Wellington is a traditional holiday dish, however, it was not anything we ever had at home, only at a restaurant could you get it! We were young, newlywed and confident! We forged ahead without even a trial run! I did all my homework and recipe research in advance. I polled all my friends’ mothers for their experience and favorite recipes- I gathered a bunch of recipes on line and decided to do what I usually do, take what I liked from a number of them- what made sense and sounded delicious and easy to do, and created my ingredient list and a strategy for shopping and preparation! We decided to make individual Beef Wellington’s instead of the whole tenderloin (the following year we did make the whole tenderloin, I don’t recommend it, it is harder to roll and wrap and when you cut it, it loses its beauty, even with an electric knife.) A winning strategy is to use premade puff pastry, we rolled it out and saved the scraps to make the cut out holiday shapes on top of each one. We really enjoyed the labor of love working together on this task, it did take both of our efforts together as it was quite a production. It is truly one of our favorite holiday memories as a young couple. Another hint is that it is worth using pate/foie gras as one recipe called for the option to substitute liverwurst instead of pate. I tried this shortcut on a subsequent year and what was odd about the liverwurst was that it did not “melt” into the duxelle- it stayed this odd pink color on top of the duxelle which then our guests removed and left on the plate after I told them what it was. The liverwurst also did not taste as good as the foie gras pate either - surprise, surprise! By the way, the duxelle was amazing and was made ahead of time. I encourage you to be bold and brave and try something new- you have nothing to lose and lots to gain in the joy of the experience. A chance to make a special memory.
Click Here for Emeril’s recipe
Holiday cocktail recipes abound. How do you choose which one to make and serve? For me, I always look for recipes that are easiest to execute and what ingredients do I already have on hand to also simplify the task and also are not too sweet. This year I found this recipe for a Sugar (Christmas) Cookie Martini and I knew immediately it would be a hit-not too sweet or hard to make. I had the opportunity to try it impromptu last week, as we ended up running into some neighbors and they asked what cocktail did I recommend for the holidays, and of course we had all these ingredients in house! Milk, Baileys, Vanilla Vodka and Amaretto, pretty basic cabinet staples. We added some nutmeg on the top and skipped the messy rim, but enjoyed the drinks and the fun of making them together-socially distanced of course!
After a rich, heavy meal, I recommend a simple dessert as I find I don’t have the appetite to appreciate a fancy dessert- and if you are cooking everything yourself, you might not have the energy either! So Holiday cookies, you need some for Santa! Or a few scoops of gelato or ice cream with fresh berries- or chocolate mousse are the perfect ending for me! Just a taste of sweetness- with something to nibble on later.
However you celebrate- celebrate safely, make some special memories. Cherish this time and appreciate this opportunity to be more intimate and personal. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.