Every year since my kids were born (except for 2005, when we visited Argentina) I have made an elaborate, multi-course Christmas Eve dinner. I start the menu planning by deciding what meat I will feature as my main dish. I want something eye-catching that I wouldn’t normally cook. Trouble is, after so many Christmas Eves, I’ve run out of choices. I’ve done standing rib roasts, boneless prime ribs and regular roasts. I’ve cooked beef Wellington and plain beef tenderloin roasts. I’ve done turkey, goose, pork tenderloin and leg of lamb. One year I made the most delicious rack of lamb. Earlier in my marriage, I once even made Ethiopian food for Xmas Eve dinner. And last year, I made short ribs.
I don’t like repeating dishes – thus my Xmas Eve dinner problem – but I was in a big conundrum this year. My kids won’t let me cook any cute animals – so no lamb, venison, ostrich, duck – and none of us are that fond of pork, so that leaves beef (chicken is just not impressive enough for Xmas Eve dinner). And I really didn’t want to do a roast (nor spend the money to buy top-quality beef). I thought about making oxtails, but the kids balked and, truth be told, after a couple of experiences with really tough oxtails, I wasn’t that willing to risk it.
So I decided to go for short ribs again. There are many ways to prepare them, after all, and they are a crowd favorite.
In all, my menu went very well, I think it may have been my most successful menu so far, as everything I served was good-to-great. The two favorites seemed to be the shrimp salad, that accompanied the soup, and the cheese course. It’s sort of sad that that would be the star of a meal I spent 2 days preparing, but there is little you can do to compete against good cheese.
As usual, I eliminated one dish from my planned menu: the fish. I had originally planned to make the leek tarts as an amuse bouche, but they ended up being too big for that purpose, so I turned them into an appetizer instead (and made the eggnog the amuse bouche). I could still have gone with the fish, but given that it needed last minute cooking – which meant more time away from the table for me – I skipped it. I think it was a good choice, both time and flavor wise.
Here is what the meal ended up being:
– Lemon Sorbet, as a palate cleanser
served with garlic & plain mashed potatoes and braised red chard
And there you go 🙂
I made this epicurious.com recipe for Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme last night. It produced an amazingly juicy chicken that Mika couldn’t get enough of. I think it was even juicier than the rotisserie chicken I make, BUT it was quite lacking in the flavor department. The sauce that came with it was just OK.
I would use the method again: Preheat oven to 450F. Put chicken on a grilling pan (I’d rub olive oil on it and sprinkle it with salt and pepper) and roast for 20 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 375F and cook for another hour or until it reaches an internal temperature of 180F.
But I wouldn’t bother with the sauce or even the marinade.
Marga’s Best Recipes.
Today I made Red Snapper with Lemon Oregano Butter for dinner – an epicurious.com recipe, of course 🙂 It was quite good. Camila liked the fish, even without the yummy butter, though Mika refused to try it (she is convinced she doesn’t like fish). Mike and I and the cats liked it 🙂
Best of all? This recipe can be prepared in less than fifteen minutes (including time to preheat the broiler)!
Last night I made Hirigoyen’s Basque chicken, a dish I hadn’t made in several years. I can kick myself asking why not. It was absolutely delicious – even better today, when I had the leftovers. It’s amazing to me, once again, what the French/Basques can do with such few ingredients.
Most importantly, the kids (reluctant to try it at first), LOVED it. Mika couldn’t stop praising it and telling me what a good cook I was. And the dish is quite easy to make. So I really should make it more often.
Last night I made Sumac Skirt Steak with Pomegranate Reduction from an epicurious.com recipe. It was a fairly quick recipe to make, but I wasn’t thrilled with it. I did overcook the pomegranate juice somewhat, but my biggest problem is that the flavors of the spice rub and sauce hid those of the meat.
Mike really liked the dish, though. I’m mentioning it here, but I won’t cook it again.
I made lamb chops from this epicurious.com recipe last night for the adults, given the lamb chops were on sale at Lucky’s for 50% off. I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of using unfiltered apple /juice/ rather than /cider/ – because I could either get filtered cider or unfiltered juice. The results were quite good, but not spectacular. I’m not sure that there is a spectacular way of preparing lamb chops, though 🙂 Still, next time I’ll try something else.
I made this tonight, from an epicurious.com recipe. I used tri-tip steak instead of tenderloin ($3 lb vs. $11lb at Safeway), and the steak came out very nice, tender enough and tasty. That said, I’ll probably not make this recipe again (unless I have some hoisin sauce I need to get rid of), because while good, it wasn’t special enough.
Last night I made my first stir fry. Ever. Really.
I had meant to try one before, I had bought the sauces, but for whatever reason I never got to do it. Then a few days ago I found the jars of stir-fry sauce I’d bought at the supermarket (probably over a year ago, they don’t have an expiration date, and by God I hope they’re still good!), and decided to use them. That’s my new plan: either cook international recipes or recipes that use up the ingredients I already have at home. Come to think of it, this is not really a very new plan – and it’s not one that works particularly well. Yes, I use up ingredients, but I buy new ones to make the new recipes, so that it becomes a huge food cycle. At least we rarely eat the same thing twice – if that’s a good thing.
Anyway, back to my stir fry, I can’t believe how easy it was. I sliced some thin-cut pork cutlets (I’d have bought chicken, but it wasn’t on sale, and I almost only buy meats on sale now), stir fry them on some oil for a few minutes, I removed them, dumped out the fat, and then stir fried some broccoli, celery and snow peas for a couple of minutes. I returned the pork, added the sauce, and voila! That was it. The results were pretty good. Of course, I only ate the pork, which was a bit tough (I will try chicken next time) and a bit bland (next time I should salt it, rather than rely purely on the sauce), but mostly good. The sauce (Kikkoman Stir-fry Sauce), was very nice – somewhat reminiscent of teriyaki, but not as sweet. It gave a good flavor to both the veggies and the meat. Mike liked that the veggies were still crunchy. Camila ate a tiny bit of pork and broccoli, but she didn’t complain later that she was hungry, so I guess that’s all she wanted. She hates food with sauces, but I just told her there was no sauce on the pork. She can be pretty clueless sometimes.
Mika didn’t eat any of it – she was doing her homework and didn’t want to be disturbed by dinner. She ate some grapes (88c lb at Safeway this week!), and I guess that was enough.
Anyway, the moral of this story is that making a stir-fry is very easy, and I should plan to make it again in those nights when I don’t have much time to cook. I’ll probably try chicken next time, see if it’s more tender, but I liked the thin pork cutlets because they had very little fat to get rid of, maintain their shape, and were incredibly easy and quick to slice up. I’ll also try new veggies next time (though my kids only like a limited amount of veggies): some mushrooms, some red peppers (for color if nothing else), mini-corn, if I can find it at the supermarket, etc.