Christmas dinner is a high stakes meal. You've likely brought together a rather disparate group of people, which means you have a disparate set of palates to please, not to mention a rather broad range of expectations. Some people guard their Christmas traditions like precious jewels, while others could, frankly, give a rat's behind. It can be a bit of a crapshoot, to say the least.
I like to think, however, that the menu Louisa devised for her Christmas dinner this year nicely straddled the divide, uniting family traditions (oyster casserole, sticky toffee puddings) with some new suspects (creamy brussels sprouts, squash with sherry-soy butter). Also ingenious? The way she divvied up the work a bit between me, herself and her parents - who are, unsurprisingly, excellent cooks.
Between the lot of us, we threw together a low-stress-but-impressive-looking array of dishes for dinner on Christmas Eve. Our centerpiece was a remarkably gorgeous standing rib roast for which George (Louisa's dad) took responsibility. He trimmed the meat a bit and slashed it all over before studding it with cloves of garlic and slathering it with olive oil.
With the roast's remarkable drippings, we made Yorkshire puddings, which puffed up golden and fluffy, with perfect crispy edges. You can get fussy and make these in individual ramekins, but why bother? The communal variety is just as tasty (Especially the next day, when you can eat it with eggs and really, really taste the beef.). The roast, it should be said, fed us for days, right up to and including making delicious stock for some French onion soup.
Our sides tended to the festive and calorie-laden, as such holiday goodies should. From Louisa's family, courtesy of her mother Jan, we had oyster and eggplant casserole. Now, I know what you're thinking, because I thought it too: how can you put two of the world's mushiest ingredients together - in a casserole, no less - and expect it to be anything but icky? Well, apparently, you can. You just need the secret recipe, which seems to involve copious amounts of cream, breadcrumbs and love.
We also enjoyed one of my new favorites, one I intend to usher into classics territory: brussels sprouts with cream, bacon, chestnuts and maple syrup. It's an inappropriately delicious preparation, the sort of thing that makes people forget about the other, lesser things on their plates. I take absolutely no credit for it, however: you can find the exact recipe we followed right on over here, at New York Magazine. My one recommendation? A few turns of black pepper toward the end, to balance out the sweet creaminess.
Our last side, squash and green beans with soy-sherry butter, turned out to be less transcendent than it had been in earlier incarnations. The problem, we decided, was that the squash we used was a bit too pumpkin-y, as opposed to butternut squash-y - the slightly mushier pumpkin absorbed too much of the dressing and left little for the beans to enjoy. Tasty, but not nearly as good as Louisa claims it's been in the past.
Are you wondering about dessert? Well, I'll be getting to that in a future (near future) post. In the meantime, a preview:
Yes, you should be very, very excited.