Christmas Dinner Menu I - Roast Chicken with Porcini, Sausage and Rice Stuffing
Winter descends on us quickly here in Maine. By Christmas we normally have a heavy snow blanket and temperatures in the teens. Holiday lights, gatherings of friends and family, and the special meals we cook bring needed warmth to our houses and our lives.
The silence over the land on Christmas Eve here is profound and inspriring. The scent of wood fires drifts across the fields and forests, and if the night is still we can hear the pounding of the always-restless ocean on the rocks below our road.
The Christmas and New Year's Day holidays in a food-focused house are always special. Open houses, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day all present opportunities for festive dinners and entertaining, and this is the time when we seem to stop worrying so much about fat, calories and expense as we pull out all the stops and prepare luxurious and special meals for our friends and family. Exotic ingredients, from far away lands, out of season produce imported from the other side of the world, and special bottles of wine become the rule rather than the exception.
Menu planning for the holidays often starts early in my house, usually signalled by the arrival in mid-November of the December Gourmet, with its annual lavish presentation of a Christmas menu. I normally spend several days with the cookbooks, old menus from dinners past (I keep a file of all the dinner parties and holiday meals, for future inspiration) and my computer-filed recipes -- it's one of my favorite holiday activities, and this year I've had extra fun creating multiple menus for posting on Stephencooks.com!
Wasabi-Laced Smoked Salmon Spread
For holiday meals there is always a pre-dinner hour when guests are arriving and the cooks are putting the finishing touches on their creations, so I always like to have a few delicious snacks available. Nuts and crudité are easy, and so is this salmon spread with a twist, which I serve with little toasts.
Scallops with Honey Sauce, with Bitter Greens
When the diners finally gather at the table, this simple, elegant preparation of scallops, greens and tomatoes with a honey sauce is a festive-looking and delicious first course. The greens and sauce can be prepared the day before so all that has to be done when it's serving time is to sear the scallops and plate them.
Tuscan Chicken dish originally presented by Kevin at Seriously Good. The stuffing can be prepared a day ahead and, though it's best done on a live charcoal and hardwood fire, it can be done in the oven. This will serve six, so for a larger meal consider doing two, or adapting the recipe for a small turkey.
Kevin's Beer Bread
Since Kevin inspired the main dish, his Beer Bread Rolls seemed to be the perfect accompanyment for this meal. This is an original recipe of Kevin's, using whole wheat flour and a lager or ale, although Keving suggests using a stout or porter for if you want a more assertive beer flavor.
Arugula Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Roasted Grape Tomatoes
I like to keep the salad fairly simple for these festive meals, and this composition is festive-looking and fresh. If you want to add some shavings of Parmeggiano Reggiano that would be a nice touch.
This variation on the traditional esresso granita again brings a festive holiday spirit to the meal, with the mint garnish. As the granita melts in the glass and combines with the whipped cream, it becomes a frozen flavored cappucino.
Tennessee Bourbon Cookies
These cookies were developed from another of Kevin's recipes -- this time, his grandmother's traditional Christmas Bourbon Cake. In addition to the bourbon, they're full of raisins, nuts and spices, making them the perfect finishing touch for our Christmas dinner.
At the end of the dinner, I plan to put out a selection of Tennessee sourmash whisky, grappa and single malt Scotches -- drinks that can be savored over good conversation with good friends!
Ok, I've had some fun with this, and I've got several more to post in the coming days. Please email me, or leave a comment, if you have any questions about any of the recipes, and don't forget to check out Seriously Good.
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