Eat, Drink and Have Time to Be Merry
This year Christmas falls on a Saturday. You may have kids home from college or out-of-town guests who will come for Christmas Eve, stay for Christmas Day and then linger on into Sunday. So this year, why not plan meals that can do double duty? Cook once, eat twice recipes that will get you out of the kitchen quicker and give you more time to enjoy your guests.
Christmas Eve is the start of the long holiday weekend and the opening act of Barbara and Bunnee’s Holiday Feasts!
Whether your Christmas Eve meal is a formal dinner with the fine china, crystal and sterling, a buffet for a gathering of family and friends, or a more intimate meal with just your immediate family, adapt the menu to your needs. If you have traditional dishes which must be on the menu for the family to feel it is really Christmas, be sure to include those.
While ham is the centerpiece of Bunnee’s menu, choose your favorite entrée: turkey, prime rib, pork roast, seafood (some traditional Italian Christmas Eve menus feature multiple seafood entrees) or vegetarian.
The principle is the same – choose something you can use again during the weekend in another way. Many of these dishes can be made ahead and the rest can be assembled quickly before the meal.
The quantities are up to you, but remember that you want to be able to use some of these dishes again over the weekend. For example, the Christmas Eve ham can be used Christmas morning in Barbara’s breakfast hashbrown casserole and again for brunch on Sunday.
The leek and potato tart is wonderful hot, but can also be served at room temperature. Use some satsumas in the salad and put the rest in a big bowl for nibbling all weekend. Add some smoked salmon, some excellent bread or crackers, a wheel of Brie or another cheese, some cornichons and you have an excellent spread for an open house.
And of course leftover desserts can always reappear in other settings. With all the Christmas cookies and treats or even a pound or two of high-end chocolates, the rest of the weekend will be a breeze!
Traditionally, my extended family gathers Christmas morning at my house (Barbara’s) for a breakfast buffet.
The week before Christmas I bake and freeze dozens of kolaches. I love sweet breakfast foods and these sweet rolls are the highlight of the morning for me, but the men in the family love the hearty hashbrown casserole.
I do most of the prep work for the hash brown casserole the night before and buy packaged hash browns. Christmas morning it’s easy to put the casserole together, pop it in the oven and then I’m out of the kitchen and enjoying my guests.
It’s also a great time to have family help me eat up all those sweet treats I’ve been baking and goodies the neighbors or Santa dropped off.
Christmas Dinner Ideas
On Christmas Day, Bunnee has tried to keep dinner simple, avoiding cooking if possible. Her traditional meal is Dungeness crab, which only requires some time to pick the meat (if you have fussy eaters who don’t want to work too hard – otherwise, just crack the crab and let people do their own), green salad, and warm French bread.
If crab is not available or doesn’t appeal to you, simple alternatives are roasted salmon or even grilled steaks – and the simple green salad and warm bread works with those as well.
Dessert abounds, of course, from the Christmas Eve meal and the treats you have around the house. Add some champagne or sparkling cider and you have a festive meal with not too much time invested.
The Day After
A late brunch before people start heading for home sounds like a plan. There is ham, which can be used for ham and biscuits or eggs Benedict or ham and Swiss sandwiches.
A sour cream and macadamia nut coffee cake adds a sweet element. Or try Deeba’s Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Jamie’s Christmas Stollen.
Fruit – persimmons, pomegranates, oranges, pears, grapefruit – will complement everything.
With a little planning, some prep in the days preceding Christmas, and well-planned menus, you can have a holiday to remember without spending the whole weekend in the kitchen. Since some of these recipes can be frozen, you will even have a headstart on meals during the rest of the holiday season or beyond.
RECIPES AND SUGGESTIONS:
Eggnog: I don't know anyone who drinks eggnog at any time other than Christmas and New Year's, but I love it and make it religiously each year.
Winter Solstice Ham: For years, even decades, I have made this ham every Christmas holiday season. We call it Winter Solstice Ham because originally I made it for a Winter Solstice party we hosted. Now, I just make it for Christmas each year. We slice it paper thin and what we don't eat on Christmas Eve is saved/frozen for use throughout the coming months. (Pictured above)
Leek and potato tart: This recipe from Everyday Foods is perfect with ham on Christmas Eve, but also great served at room temperature.
Green beans and roasted cherry tomatoes with crispy shallots: Prepare the green beans by steaming or boiling in salted water until tender but still crisp. Drain. Meanwhile, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and roast until soft and juicy, but still holding their shape. Toss together with the green beans, season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil (lemon pepper is also good) and top with the crispy shallots.
Walnut torte: This is really best if made a few days ahead, which works well for our purposes.
Cheesecake: The mother of a former boyfriend gave Bunnee this recipe. The relationship is long over, but this has been her cheesecake of choice for over 30 years.
Candy Cane Kolache: Kolaches are a Czechoslovakian pastry. A sweet bread dough filled with fruit. Last year I created one shaped like a candy cane and filled it with sweet apple and cinnamon filling.
Breakfast Hashbrown Casserole: This dish is easy to put together and makes it easy to feed a crowd. (Pictured above)
Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Macadamia Nuts: A rich, moist coffee cake with a streusel top.
Christmas Stollen: Jamie, Life’s A Feast, makes a traditional a specialty of Dresden, Germany, a cross between a bread and a cake, studded with raisins and candied fruit, a hint of rum and ground nuts, generously dusted with powdered sugar and presented in all her beautiful glory on the holiday table. This is made two weeks ahead of time. (Pictured above)
Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake: Deeba, Passionate About Baking, baked this beautiful, moist zucchini cake and dressed it up for Christmas. This would be perfect for dessert or served as a quick bread for brunch.