Christmas Eve Dinner – 2017

As I prepared to plan my Christmas Eve dinner for 2018, I realized that I had never actually posted my menu from 2017. I often go back and look at past menus to see what I should repeat – and what I should omit. I did post some of the recipes, however.

I do still have the copy of the menu, though my recollection of how each course was may be somewhat faulty. This was a 12-course dinner because my youngest daughter was 12 at the time, and she requested that number of courses. My oldest daughter was vegetarian at the time (she’s now vegan), so I made sure that the menu had vegetarian options for her.

First Course: Pomegranate Mint Lassi and Spiced Chickpeas

I served this course in the living room while I got the rest of the dinner ready. It went over very well.

Second Course: Caprese Salad Spoons Amuse Bouche

I had gotten some amuse bouche spoons and, of course, I had to use them. I decided on a simple Caprese salad amuse bouche because my oldest daughter was heavily into Caprese at the time. I couldn’t find any fresh basil at the time (this year it’s all over the place), so I used pesto instead. I also used burrata instead of fresh mozarella, which was a mistake as burrata has too mild a flavor to stand up to the pesto and the super-expensive, thick Balsamic vinegar I also used. Still, this was a good amuse bouche and worked well in the spoons.

Third Course: Linguiça and Local Beer/Root Beer

This was my “ode to San Leandro” course. I live in San Leandro, a relatively small city right south of Oakland. For years, San Leandro was the unofficial sausage capital of California – we had several sausage manufacturers in town. Chief among those sausages was linguiça, a Portuguese smoked-cured pork sausage. Indeed, San Leandro was settled by Portuguese immigrants, and they took their linguiça very seriously (read about San Leandro’s sausage king, if you’re interested in true crime stories).

In recent years, San Leandro has been moving away from sausages and closer to beer – we now have several small breweries in town. So I figured a dish of local linguiça and beer would be a nice way of highlighting my adopted town. Plus, this was an easy dish to make (just cook the
linguiça on the stove or oven) and serve.

Fourth Course: Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts

It’s funny, I’d completely forgotten I had made this last year – and yet when it came time to make a salad for my 2018 Xmas Eve dinner, this is what I came up with once again!

Fifth Course: Mushroom Soup

I’ve been making Anthony Burdain’s recipe for mushroom soup for many years now and I often serve it for Christmas’ Eve. It’s just absolutely delicious. For the last few years, I’ve been making it with vegetable broth rather than chicken broth to cater to my non-chicken eating family members. It’s just as good.

Sixth Course: Moroccan Chicken Bastilla and Vegan Bastilla

Bastilla is another of my old “tried and true” dishes and a family favorite. My kids really wanted me to make it last year, but as my oldest daughter was then a vegetarian, she requested a vegetarian version. She absolutely loved the recipe I found for her.

Seventh Course: Lemon Sorbet Palate Cleanser

I don’t remember if I made it or I bought it. Still, I always like to serve a sorbet as a palate cleanser before the main course.

Eight Course: Mushroom Marsala Gnocchi

This was my favorite dish of the night.

Ninth Course: Beef Roast with Madeira Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

I didn’t leave any record of what recipe I used for the beef, but I’d used this one with great success before, so I probably used it again. Alas, I don’t know what Madeira Sauce recipe I used.

Tenth Course: Cheese Plate

I seem to remember that whatever cheeses I served were good.

Eleventh Course: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Great dessert!

Twelfth Course: Hot Chocolate or Tea with Shortbread Cookies

Store bought and served in the living room.

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Christmas Eve 2018 Menu

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.
  • olives
  • 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.

6th course: Beef Wellington + Mushroom Wellington + Smashed Red Potatoes + Vegan Smashed Red Potatoes + Braised Leeks

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.

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Xmas Eve Menu 2013: Back to the Past with an International Flavor

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”.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. Blood Orange Sorbet
    Sorbets are great as palate cleansers, and this store-bought one from Ciao Bella is just delicious.
  5. Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette
    This salad is an old favorite, it never disappoints.
  6. 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.
  7. Bastilla
    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.
  8. Lemon Sorbet
    A 13-course dinner deserves two palate cleanser. My second one was also store-bought, Häagen-Dazs
  9. 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.
  10. Cheese Course
    Featuring Spanish and Italian cheeses.
  11. 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.
  12. White Hot Chocolate
    I thought it was delicious, but nobody else was as fond of it as I 🙁
  13. 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

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Rolled Butter Cookies – Best Recipe so Far

Camila wanted to make Christmas cookie, and while I have a pretty good recipe, it called for some ingredients that I didn’t have at home. That was fortunate, because while searching for another recipe I came upon this one, from butter company Land 0’Lakes.  I like it more than my regular recipe, specially with the frosting.

Without the frosting the cookies are too dry.  That’s because of all the extra flour you use on them while you roll them.  Making them thicker helps – mine were too thin.  The icing, however, helps tremendously.  The best part was that the kids didn’t like them that much – Mika found them too dry and while Camila likes to make baked goods, she doesn’t really like to eat them.  The flavor was very good and, yes, you need all that vanilla extract.  All the recipes for rolled cookies I’ve found call for orange juice or lemon juice, so I suspect the citric acid element is needed for chemical reasons.

The key to making rolled cookies is getting the dough at the right temperature to make them rollable. It takes 2-3 hours in the fridge, but I’ve noticed that 45 minutes in the freezer also do the trick.  Work with dough in small batches.  As soon as one gets too soft, put it back in the fridge and get another one.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour + more for dusting
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 1″ squares of plastic wrap

Icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk
  • Food coloring, as desired

Instructions

For the cookies

With an electric mixer at medium speed, cream the butter with the sugar and the egg.  Add the orange juice and vanilla extract and continue mixing until combined.  Add the flour and baking soda and mix at low speed until combined.

Wrap 1/4th of the dough. with each plastic wrap square. Flatten slightly.  Refrigerate until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Heat oven to 400°F.

Lightly flour a working surface and a rolling pin.  Roll out one package of batter to a 1/4″ thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters.  Place 1″ apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 6 to 8 minutes.  It’s ready when the edges of the cookie start to turn brown.  Remove from oven and let stand for one minute before transferring to cooling racks.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

For the Icing

Using an electric mixer at low speed, beat together the powdered sugar, butter and vanilla.  Scrape the sides of the bowl often.  Add enough milk for your desired consistency.
Divide into small bowl and color each one with food coloring.  Spread over cookies and allow to dry.
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Reindeer Hash Recipe (Poronkäristys)

reindeerIt’s early January, Christmas is well passed and you don’t know what to do with the reindeer that Santa Claus left stranded on your backyard.  Well, here come the Finns to the rescue with a delicious (I’m sure, Santa Claus skipped me this year) recipe for reindeer hash.  It comes from the book Natural Cooking the Finnish Way, which, by the way, has quite a few really good recipes.

If you have kept your reindeer in the backyard, hopefully they are cold enough, but if not, do freeze the meat for a while to  make it easy to slice, and always do it across the grain, of course.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb bacon, cubed
  • 1 lb reindeer meat, thinly sliced
  • water
  • salt to taste

Instructions

Cook the bacon on a heavy frying pat over medium heat until the fat melts.  Add the reindeer meat and cook until browned.  Cover the meat with water and season with salt. Turn down the heat, partially cover the pan, and simmer for 2 hours, adding water if necessary.

Serve with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.


2012 Christmas Eve Dinner

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:

Eggnog

Plantain and Coconut Soup with Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Individual Leek Tarts

– Lemon Sorbet, as a palate cleanser

Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Cocoa and Star Anise

served with garlic & plain mashed potatoes and braised red chard

Assorted Cheeses

Peanut Butter Trifle

And there you go 🙂

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Plantain and Coconut Soup with Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad – Recipe

I wanted to make mushroom soup for my 2012 Christmas Eve dinner.  Mika wanted butternut squash soup.  I figured I’d compromise and find something else.  For some reason I was set on having a savory fruit-based soup, so when I came across this recipe I felt I had found gold.  It got amazing reviews, and I’d had great luck with other recipes from Emeril.

As things turned out, I was not too happy with the soup.  I felt it tasted mostly of chicken broth, with only hints of coconut and none of plantains.  If I was going to serve it, I felt I had to fix it – so I ended up adding the rest of the coconut milk from the can as well as 3 bananas and some nutmeg.  The results were much tastier than before, and Mika was pleased.

I don’t eat shrimp myself, but according to my guests and my husband, the shrimp salad was delicious – both by itself and when combined with the soup.  This is high praise coming from my husband, as he doesn’t like either tomatoes or avocados!

Plantain and Coconut Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp.  olive oil
  • 1/3 cup small diced salt pork
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 4 tsp. curry powder
  • 4 large yellow plantains with slightly green tips and some black spots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 can  coconut milk
  • 3 small bananas, coarsely chopped
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp.  lime juice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Heat a soup pot over medium heat and add the oil.  When hot, add the salt pork and cook until crispy, about 6 minutes.  Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and curry powder and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the plantains and the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the plantains are soft, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk and bananas.  Puree the soup, either using an immersion blender (easiest) or in batches, in a regular blender.  Return to the pot, taste and adjust seasoning.

Just before serving, reheat the soup and add the lime juice.

Place the sour cream in a small serving bowl and sprinkle the cilantro on top of it.  Serve the soup with the salad (recipe below) and sour cream on the side.  Before eating, combine the three elements.

 Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
  • 1  tsp. creole seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced avocado
  • 1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

Season the shrimp with the creole seasoning and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add butter and melt.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, avocado and cilantro and mix.  Turn heat to very low.  Season with salt and continue cooking until the shrimp is completely cooked through.

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Eggnog Recipe

I’m not the hugest eggnog fan in the world, but I wanted to have something to serve my Christmas Eve dinner guests when they first arrived.  For some reason eggnog came to mind.

This recipe, from Alton Brown, was fairly easy and pretty tasty – if you like eggnog.  It was a bit too nutmeggish, however, so if I made it again I’d reduce the nutmeg to half a teaspoon.  It wasn’t too sweet, which I appreciated.  I followed it pretty closely, but as I needed both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version, I only added the Bourbon at the end.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 oz bourbon

Instructions

Beat eggs with an electric mixer until they lighten in color.  Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and mix until completely dissolved.  Mix in the milk, cream and nutmeg.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Add the remaining sugar and continue beating until hard peaks are formed.

Mix the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture.  If you are making both alcoholic and non-alcoholic eggnog, pour into separate pitchers and add the bourbon to one.

Refrigerate until serving.

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Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Cocoa and Star Anise – Recipe

This year – 2012 – short ribs were eatured as the main dish on my Christmas Eve dinner table.  I love short ribs and I couldn’t think of anything else to make for this dinner.  Of course, I had to try a new recipe because I wasn’t in love with any of the ones I made before, plus I always like trying new things.

I think this recipe was quite successful.  I’m not ready to say it was the best short rib recipe I’ve ever made, but it definitely was tasty and the sauce was delicious – both with the short ribs and the garlic mashed potatoes I served it with.  The sauce was definitely rich and well balanced.  The ribs, btw, were succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender.  Regardless of what recipe I use in the future, I will cook them in this manner.

I made the short ribs the day before, not only because I don’t want to be crazy cooking on Christmas Eve, but because braised short-ribs are always better the next day.

I got this recipe from Chuck Hughes of the Cooking Channel (I had never heard of either, I found it through Google) and I modified it slightly.  I used a roasting pan for this dish, as I had nothing else that was large enough for the ribs and veggies.  I placed it on the stove over two burners.

It will serve 6 people.

Ingredients

  • 8 meaty short ribs
  • coarse salt
  • flour for dredging
  • canola oil
  • 4 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ cylinders
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Trim excess fat from the ribs.  Season well with coarse salt.  Dredge in flour.

Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with Canola oil and place on the stove over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the short ribs and brown on all sides.  Remove and set aside.

Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, star anise and cinnamon sticks to the pan.  Cook until they caramelize, stirring frequently.  Return meat to the pan and pour wine over the ribs.  If they are not completely covered, top with water.

Mix in cocoa power, brown sugar and peppercorns and bring to a boil.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil, put in the oven, and cook for 3 hours.

Carefully remove ribs, and set aside.  Strain out the braising liquid into a large cooking pot.   Discard the veggies.

Place the pot on the stove and boil over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3rd.  Return the short ribs to the pot.  Cool and then refrigerate until the next day.

When ready to reheat (30 to 60 minutes before serving), place the pot on the stove over medium heat and cook uncover until the liquid starts boiling.  Stir to make sure the short ribs are moist all over.  Cover and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Five minutes before serving, remove the ribs and place on the serving platter.  Cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.  Taste the liquid, adjust seasoning and reduce further if needed to make it more intense.  Add butter and serve with the ribs or on the side.

Marga’s 2012 Christmas Eve Dinner


Xmas Eve 2012 Menu

It’s that wonderful time of the year again, when I forget how I swore last year that I’ll never cook Xms Eve dinner again, and revert to doing it anyway.  It’s not that I mind cooking a huge Christmas dinner.  I do enjoy it, in particular now that Camila will help me with some of the preparations and I’ve become wise enough to chose mostly dishes that can be made in advance or require little preparation the day of the event.  But what I don’t enjoy is getting the house clean and ready for the event.

My favorite part, however, may be making and tweaking the menu, trying to make sure the dishes flow into one another and trying new recipes.  I rarely have the chance to make appetizers or soups (or even desserts) in my regular cooking, so this is fun.

Anyway, this is my planned menu, which I’ve already started cooking.  Recipes will follow and I will make a full post, with what I ended up cooking and how it turned out in a few days.

Christmas Eve 2012 Menu

Leek & Cheese Tarts, as an amuse bouche
Plantain and Coconut Soup with Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad
Home made eggnog, in tiny cups as something to occupy guests with while I cook the catfish
Catfish and Asparagus a la Meuniere
Lemon sorbet, as a palate cleansar
Braised Short Ribs (new recipe) with garlic mashed potatoes and braised red chard
Cheese course
Peanut Butter Trifle

And that’s it 🙂

Now, the question, what will I end up /not making/ because I run out of town or was too exhausted?