Another year, another complex Xmas Eve menu. This year, my 11-yo daughter Mika said she wanted a 13-course dinner. She didn’t know why, that number just came to her head, but she wanted it. I could have argued against it, but I figured with a little bit of creativity I could get there. And Mika didn’t particularly care what the courses were, as long as she had 13. And she did – even though I overcooked one of the courses so it ended up almost inedible.
The key to cooking and serving a 13-course menu all by yourself is advanced planning AND advanced cooking, as well as flexibility. To make it easier I decided to revisit some of my favorite recipes, which come from all over the world. I did decide on a new one as my main dish, Orecchiette al Ragu di Braciole, basically beef rolls stuffed with cheese and cooked in a tomato ragout, but it didn’t work out. I made it the day before the meal, and discovered that the sauce was pretty bland and one-dimensional and the meat rolls were not what I would call attractive. So decided we would just have that for dinner that night, and sent my husband to get a roast.
Roasts are great main dishes because not only because they are simple to put together, but because they look impressive on the table. Sure, they are expensive, but it’s Xmas. On the minus side, a roast requires the use of the oven, which means displacing other dishes. My second and third courses needed to be broiled, but my oven can’t bake at 300 and broil at the same time. I baked them at 300, which wasn’t ideal for either – but I overbaked the shrimp, making them barely edible.
In any case, this is what I came up with. At the end of the night I asked each guest what their favorite part was. There wasn’t a consensus (the soup, the bastilla and the roast were all mentioned), but at least not one said “the cheese”.
- Beignets au Fromage èt a la Menthe
These Corsican goat cheese & mint fritters are delicious, but I did discover that they’re best if fried right before they are served.
- Camarao Grelhado com Molho Cru
Unable to either grill or broil these Angolan marinated shrimp, I baked them and almost dessicated them. However, my guests did like the cumin sauce.
- Bacon Wrapped Bananas
This recipe from Antigua doesn’t actually need a recipe. Take a thick slice of banana, wrap it with half a slice of bacon, secure it with a toothpick and broil it for 3-5′. Baking it at 300F wasn’t a good alternative, as it dried out the outside of the banana without making the bacon crispy enough. But it still tasted good
- Blood Orange Sorbet
Sorbets are great as palate cleansers, and this store-bought one from Ciao Bella is just delicious.
- Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette
This salad is an old favorite, it never disappoints.
- Mushroom Soup
Another old favorite that tastes better if cooked the day before. But make or add the dried mushrooms in advanced. Doing it made them so tough and chewy as to be inedible.
This Moroccan Chicken Pie was a favorite of several guests, including my daughter. I will admit it came out perfectly. Because it only requires 15 minutes cooking, I was able to put it in the oven after I took out the roast to let it rest.
- Lemon Sorbet
A 13-course dinner deserves two palate cleanser. My second one was also store-bought, Häagen-Dazs
- Ribeye Roast with Madeira Sauce and Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes
Perfection! The roast was perfectly cooked, the Madeira sauce was delicious and gave it an unexpected nutty taste and the potatoes were easy and loved by everyone.
- Cheese Course
Featuring Spanish and Italian cheeses.
- Chocolate Peppermint Cake
My Grandmother’s recipe. It was great! I made it earlier that day, which allowed the mint cream to settle. It looked beautiful and was very tasty.
- White Hot Chocolate
I thought it was delicious, but nobody else was as fond of it as I 🙁
- A Lemon Square
Bought frozen at Trader Joe’s and defrosted. Delicious.
I served dinner with a Chateau Souverain Estate Bottled 2003 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon