It’s the third year of the COVID pandemic, and the first of the Tripledemic, so we once again had a very simple family Christmas Eve dinner, without any friends atoll – though our daughter’s boyfriend did spend Xmas Eve with us.
I had originally thought I’d ordered take out for this dinner, but my oldest daughter objected, so I decided on a simplified Xmas Eve menu that wouldn’t tax me too much. There were, of course, changes, compromises and courses dropped:
1- I decided that we wouldn’t have different dishes or silverware for different courses this year. One fork, one plate. We don’t have a dishwasher, so this was about saving my husband dishwashing time 🙂
2- I decided against having a soup course. The kids haven’t really liked soup lately, and not having soup would mean fewer dishes to wash.
3- Sorbet. First, I had some grandiose thoughts of making a champagne and strawberry sorbet, then I decided to just get some at the supermarket, but it wasn’t on sale, so I skipped it altogether.
4- The main dish. I had originally planned to make beef bourguignon – an old favorite, comfort food at its best. BUT chuck was not on sale this week and there is no way I’m going to pay $10/lb for what should be a cheap cut. Lately, I found some chuck in the freezer, but by then it was too late. Instead, I made a ribeye roast – because that’s what was on sale this week ($6/lb at a variety of restaurants).
5- I had meant to make a Gateaux Basque for dessert. Indeed, I had meant to make that, at my husband’s request, for Thanksgiving and then Family Christmas before. It didn’t happen then and it didn’t happen now either. Though I had already made the pastry cream, I didn’t want to bother with the cake – so at the last minute I decided to make a Basque cheesecake instead.
6- Photos. Yes, I meant to take them, but as I was busy cooking and serving dinner and didn’t nag my family members to take photos, none were taken :-(.
This is what I ended up serving:
First Course: Mini Quiche
These were bought from Trader Joe’s and they were pretty good. They have both bacon & onion and cheese & mushroom flavors. My youngest didn’t like them, but the rest of us did.
Second Course: Caesar Salad
This is the only salad my youngest likes, and I simplified my life by buying a Fresh Express Caesar Supreme salad kit. My youngest approved, though she felt there wasn’t enough dressing.
Third Course: Bastilla
My oldest had been asking for bastilla from Thanksgiving on, and this time I finally made it. I made a vegetarian one for her, using faux chicken, and a regular one for us. All of us – save my youngest who didn’t even want to try it – loved it.
Fourth Course: Cheese Plate
This was supposed to be our fifth course – served after the main dish – but as my youngest hadn’t wanted to eat either the quiche or the bastilla, she was very hungry and didn’t want to wait for the main dish to be ready to be served. So I switched. I served three cheese that I had bought at Trader Joe’s: triple cream brie, mini Basque cheese and Italian truffle cheese, along with apple slices, quince jelly and homemade bread. I had actually meant to get a baguette instead, but I waited too long and by the time my daughter made it to Safeway, the place was packed – so my oldest came to the rescue and made bread instead. Unfortunately, my youngest ended up not liking any of the cheeses. I’m going to have to try to figure out what cheeses she actually does like.
Fifth Course: Herb Crusted Prime Rib Roast with Roasted Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms and Popovers.
I wasn’t excited about making a roast, but it worked out very well. I got the bone-in ribeye roast from Safeway, and it was surprisingly good. I used Lisa’s recipe though I added some oregano to the butter and modified the roasting instructions to fit my need to cook the bastillas, popovers and potatoes. This worked so well that I will probably continue cooking my roast this way going forward.
The mushrooms, I sautéed with shallot and garlic, but were just OK. I used baby potatoes which I cut in two and covered with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and rosemary. By doing that and keeping them in a plastic bag in the fridge, I was able to prepare them in advance without them oxidizing. I just transferred them to a baking sheet and roasted them as the popovers cooked.
I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Popovers, which is a pretty standard recipe. It worked fine, but next time I’d fill the popover pan all the way to the top for the real spectacular popover effect.
- 6 – 7 lb Bone-In Ribeye Roast
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp minced rosemary
- 1 tsp minced thyme
- 1/2 tsp minced oregano
Remove roast from the fridge. Dry all over with a paper towel and let sit, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the herbed butter. In a medium bowl, mix the softened butter with the rest of the ingredients.
Preheat oven to 450F. Cover the roast with butter on all sides. Place in a roasting pan bone side down. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325F and continue roasting for about 1 1/2 hours. Raise heat to 425F and roast until the internal temperature reaches 120F for medium rare, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let rest, covered with aluminum foil or a kitchen towel, for 20 – 30 minutes
Sixth Course: Basque Burnt Cheesecake and Dulce de Leche Granizado Ice Cream
The Basque burnt cheesecake is basically a NY cheesecake that doesn’t have a crust and which is baked at a higher temperature. This turns it into a lighter/airier but firmer cheesecake with a burnt top. The consistency is a bit more ashy than regular cheesecake, but the flavor is very similar. I think I prefer the American type. I based mine on a recipe from Bon Appetit.
Dulce de Leche granizado ice cream is dulce de leche ice cream with shaved semi-sweet chocolate incorporated into it. I’ve tried to recreate the ice cream I grew up eating in Argentina, but to no avail so far. This time, I made it by mixing 2 cups of dulce de leche with 1/2 cup of whole milk and then adding 2 cups of heavy cream. I put it in the ice cream maker, added shaved chocolate and froze it. The flavor was good but the consistency was off. Still, we enjoyed it. It didn’t really go with the cake, but we were all too full to eat dessert anyway, so we had it later.
- 2 lbs cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup flour
Preheat oven to 400F. Let cream cheese and eggs come to room temperature.
Grease a 9″ or 10″ spring form pan. Cover bottoms and sides with two pieces of parchment paper, about 2″ longer than edges of the pan.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cheese and sugar together over medium-low until the sugar dissolves. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at the time, waiting until each is mixed in before adding the next one. Turn heat to medium-low. Mix in the salt and vanilla extract. Sift the flour onto the bowl. Continue mixing until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 60 minutes or until the top of the cake is a dark, burnt color. Let cool for an hour and then refrigerate for a few more hours.