Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Dinner

Claire MatlockChristmas Eve in our house is an extravagant event where extended relatives come over to eat, drink and compete to win the annual talent show. While cooking for a crowd is often a cause for stress amongst party hosts, it's important to remember that everyone will enjoy the gathering more if the cook is calm and not isolated to solitary confinement in the kitchen. Obviously, I love cooking, and having been deprived of such pleasures for the past few months of university, I was more than glad to roll up my sleeves and pipe some sweetened ricotta into canolli shells. On top of this, Christmas Eve is a time when my parents generously omit any ingredient-budget, making the night truly one of indulgence. Bonus was the spanking new kitchen in my parent's new condo. Although I knew our old suburban kitchen like the back of my hand, this new set-up is beautiful and features far better appliances. Anticipating the search for every spoon and spice in the new drawers and cupboards meant not biting off more than I could chew, as is a common mistake for food-enthusiasts this time of year.

If you like to keep things simple, there are a ton of ways to "cut corners" and make your taste-buds fly without doing the dirty work. (Buy the canolli shells pre-made from a good Italian grocer, buy gourmet crackers and bread instead of baking them, spike any pre-made ingredients with citrus zest to "wake-up" the flavour, etc). On top of this, 60% of this meal was made the day before Christmas Eve, really taking the pressure off the night of the party. For dishes like the brisket, the overnight treatment helped to tenderize the meat and let the sauce soak in, while letting the fat congeal in the refrigerator for easy removal in the morning. In fact, I was able to Crossfit for 2 hours at noon - testament to the "make it all the day before" theory. This is the 3rd year I've tackled Christmas dinner and it gets easier every year. Above all, I've learned to keep it simple. Pick two of three intricate dishes you want to make and let the rest be old-faithfuls or no-brainers. Everyone will be too busy looking at your show-stopper carrot pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting to notice that you just threw some smoked salmon on a cracker with some tangy sauce and dill sprigs.

Without further adieu, the 2012 Christmas Eve menu:

Appetizers: Cheesy spinach dip served gooey hot with crackers and bread for dipping, smoked salmon on rye with dill and lime cream, goat cheese "truffles" rolled in pistachios, apricots or grapes

Mains: Lucy Waverman's Brisket with meat purchased from Charles' Meats at the farmer's market, roast potatoes with thyme and rosemary, pear and yam soup, wild-mushroom puffed-pastry pies, favourite meatballs, greens with maple vinaigrette dressing

Desserts: Pineaple carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, Italian cannoli, sticky toffee date cake, fruit platter with persimmons and pomegranates, mom's cookie tower


1 comment:

  1. Everything looks incredible! I was so glad to see you posting again, I wondered if you'd just given up. Because of your posts my family has tried some new things (oxtail, eek!) and your posts are always great!
    Thanks for the updates!