Christmas Eve dinner is the ONE big dinner I cook every year – and which I swear, after cooking it, that I’ll never do again. It’s usually a multi-course affair that takes me days to cook – and then goes so quickly (even though it may take hours to consume it). This year I sort of paired it down to 8 courses – one of which we ended up not eating -, but I made vegan versions of several courses because my oldest daughter is now a vegan. She, of course, would have preferred that I only made vegan food, but she’s out of luck on that one.
Dinner was too hectic for me to photograph any of the dishes, so you (or I, when I re-read this) will have to use your imagination. Still, I’m recording this for future reference – together with my notes.
1st Course: Hors d’oeuvres
- Crostini with deviled egg salad*
- Crostini with tomato spread and basil (vegan)
- Slices of salami, soppressata and coppa.
- baguette slices
- olive oil and flavored balsamic vinegars (lemon, coconut and peach) to dip in.
I had also prepared mejool dates stuffed with bacon and goat cheese, but I stupidly left them on the table and the dog ate them! They were good but not great enough to prepare another batch.
I served this first course at the coffee table and the rest of the courses at the main table, but I had a second plate of crostini with egg salad on the dining table for people to nibble while they waited for other courses.
2nd course: Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette
This is my standard salad. I’ve been making it for 14 years and I just love it. Still, I had originally meant to make a pear salad, but I changed my mind when I realized that the apples I’d bought for the cheese course were horrible and decided to substitute them with the pears. I had all the ingredients for this salad saved for the green onions (which I just omitted), so I went with it. As usual, it was delicious.
I served my daughter a vegan version which just omitted the gorgonzola cheese, but she didn’t like it. Apparently the cheese is key for this salad.
3rd course: Chestnut soup + Vegan Chestnut soup
I’ve been wanting to make chestnut soup for a while, but finding chestnuts hadn’t been easy. This year I found them at Safeway, of all places. I thought the soup had a bit too much nutmeg, but my guests disagreed. In any case, both soups were very good.
I made these soups three days in advance, as was recommended by several reviewers of chestnut soups.
4th course: Fish Lolo + Tofu Lolo + Rice
I wanted to serve a fish course this year and after deciding that I couldn’t time my first preference, catfish a la Meuniere, well enough to make it work in this dinner, I went with this recipe for fish in coconut milk that I had cooked and loved when I explored Fijian cuisine. I made a tofu version for my vegan daughter.
This time it didn’t work as well as the first time. Perhaps the problem was the fish, I used sole instead of swai, which had a far more intense fish flavor. In any case, it was OK but not great.
5th course: Apple & Calvados sorbet
I like to serve a palate cleanser before the main dish – particularly important when serving fish as the appetizer -, and sorbets are my usual choice. This time I decided to make an apple and calvados sorbet as something different. I thought it was pretty good, though it was a bit too alcoholic for my children.
I’ve made the beef wellington before and this time it came out great as well, though I put a bit too much pate. My daughter said the mushroom wellington was very good as well. I used much less spinach that the recipe called for, as she doesn’t like spinach.
To make the smashed red potatoes I simply used vegan butter and almond milk instead of butter and sour cream. I also added chives to the mashed potatoes to make it more christmasy (the red was provided by the peels).
I made the braised leeks in advanced and reheated them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a good call. The leeks had been melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious when I first made them, but they toughened up and didn’t taste as good later. Live and learn.
7th course: Cheese course (omitted)
This is the course I didn’t serve. All of us were pretty full after the main dish and nobody seemed to have space for the cheese course. I had gotten a few cheeses, crackers and sliced baguette, as well as jams, honey and honey mustard and the pear slices I spoke of earlier (preserved by dipping them in 2 cups of water with 1/4 cup of honey for a few minutes before drying and putting in a ziploc bag). I had also made caramelized walnuts (which I ate all by myself later). Well, all of this stuff keeps for a while.
8th course: Chocolate Tart + Vegan Chocolate Tart
This is a very rich tart and not everyone partook of it. Still, those who did enjoyed it. I’ve been slowly making my way through it since. I found a great Belgian chocolate (54%) that worked great – the key to this tart is to use high quality chocolate. My daughter enjoyed her vegan tart as well.
9th course: Peppermint Ice Cream in Candy bowls
I had thought I’d serve the ice cream with the tarts, but we ended up serving it later to the people who still had room in their stomachs (not me). The peppermint ice cream was store bought, but I made the very cool peppermint candy bowls. When making them, I found that using the back of a water glass worked better than a regular rameskin, as those were too large.
In all, it was a good meal but not as exciting or memorable as previous ones. I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it this year.
*I had originally meant to make deviled eggs, but I couldn’t manage to peel the eggs. So I chopped the surviving egg whites and added them to a basic deviled eggs recipe to which I’d added a teaspoon of honey pecan mustard and smoked paprika. This was still not doing it for my husband, he felt something was missing, and I realized it was probably an acid, so I added the juice of a lemon, some more mustard and more paprika. I spread the mixture on crostini. That seemed to do the trick and everyone seemed to like it.