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:
– Plantain and Coconut Soup with Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad
– 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
And there you go 🙂