Christmas Eve dinner

In talking to people over the last few weeks, I’m always interested to find out what they are cooking over the holidays.  Beef tenderloin is a very popular choice – it’s delicious, it’s luxurious and you can cook it ahead of time.  It was our entree for Christmas Eve last year and I’m repeating it again this year.  Here is my Christmas Eve menu with a few options depending on your mood:

Smoked salmon on toast points

We have a small number of adults on Christmas Eve so smoked salmon with sides is doable.  If you have a bigger group, try the salmon spread.

  • smoked salmon about 2 oz per person
  • thinly sliced white bread, toasted
  • sour cream
  • capers, drained
  • red onion, minced
  • hard boiled eggs, minced

Serve salmon on a plate surrounded with accompaniments and small forks.  This is great for a small group – for a large group make the salmon spread which will be posted shortly for Christmas dinner.

Salmon Spread

My mother-in-law got this recipe in Alaska.  It’s a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group and can be made a few days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

Roasted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce

  • Beef tenderloin (about 1 lb per person is generous and allows leftovers)
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

If using whole tenderloin, cut in half.  Preheat oven to 475.  Using a heavy roasting pan with vegetable oil, start the beef on top of the stove over 2 burners.  Sear about 2 minutes a side so beef is browned on all sides and then cook in oven for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 125 for medium rare.  This can be prepared ahead of time.  NOTE: If you have someone who likes their meat more done, you can cut off a portion and wrap it in aluminum foil when it comes out of the oven – it will get more done or you can put carve and then cook in your oven or toaster oven for a few more minutes.

Red wine sauce

  • 1 cup red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 TB minced chives
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon

Combine wine, bay leaves, salt and pepper and boil over high heat.  When reduced to about 2 TB, remove from heat, remove bay leaves and whisk in butter.  Whisk continuously to keep from separating.  Add in chives and tarragon.  Watch closely – this can burn quickly.  I’ve tried to make ahead of time but find it’s easier to make at the last minute to reduce the risk of separating.  If it does separate, try adding a small amount of cold water.

Roasted onion sauce for beef 

This is another excellent sauce with the meat.  You can make it ahead of time and it is excellent with leftovers on sandwiches.

  • 2 large onions
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 TB capers, drained
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB fresh tarragon leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 475.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and roast onions for 2 hours.  Let onions cool and then discard the outer layers, stems, root ends and juice remaining in the ban.  Puree the onions in a food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil stirring until puree is thick and liquid has evaporated.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Whisk in flour and cook, whisking for about 3 minutes.  Add cream and wine while whisking and simmer sauce whisking for about 5 minutes. Sauce should be thick.  Remove from saucepan and stir in capers, vinegar and tarragon.   Stir in onion puree.  Sauce can be made the day before and kept refrigerated.  Reheat when ready to serve.

Haricots verts with shallots

  • 3/4 lb haricots verts, ends trimmed
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 – 3 shallots, finely chopped

Blanch beans in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain and plunge into cold water to stop cooking and drain.

Melt butter and oil in a large pan and saute shallots for 5 – 10 minutes until browned.  Add beans to shallot mixture and season with salt and pepper.  Serve hot.

Arugula salad

I debated between the haricots verts and the arugula salad

  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 TB Sherry Vinegar
  • 3 TB Olive oil
  • Arugula
  • Parmesan cheese

Chop shallot and add to a small jar with vinegar and olive oil (for a milder dressing increase olive oil to 4 TB).  Wash arugula and spin dry.  Toss with dressing and top with shavings of parmesan.

Rosemary popovers

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 5 TB melted butter
  • 4 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, salt, eggs, milk and 4 TB of butter in a blender for about 30 seconds.  Brush popover tins with remaining butter and heat in oven about 5 minutes.  Fill tins half full with batter and sprinkle each popover top with rosemary.  Bake 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Potato Gratin

The potato gratin is always a hit and would provide a good starch option in place of the rosemary popovers.

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

I’ll serve cookies from my baking spree for dessert.

Throw it together Thursday

This week has been crazy and by Thursday, I’m running out of steam.  Fortunately, I had planned for that eventuality.  I had arugula in the fridge along with the leftover chicken from Tuesday night.  I tossed the dressing ingredients in a jar and tossed with the lettuce.  I topped with some shaved Parmesan cheese and the chicken.  There was only one problem.  I’ve been making goat cheese, arugula, turkey wraps for healthy lunches so there wasn’t as much arugula as I thought and the salads looked a little skimpy.  That’s the great thing about salads.  They are a wonderful base for throwing in whatever you can find.  There were a few walnuts, some marinated artichoke hearts and some fresh sundried tomatoes that I bought at the olive bar.  The result:

The dressing:

  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 TB sherry vinegar
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

The salad:

  • arugula, rinsed and dried
  • shaved Parmesan cheese (to taste)
  • leftover chicken
  • use your imagination – nuts, vegetables, croutons, whatever you have around that you would like (the salad bar and/or olive bar at your local grocery store are great sources of interesting odds and ends to add to your salad)

Feast with friends

Last night we hosted a dinner party for people we didn’t know.  It may sound odd but it is actually a wonderful program at our daughter’s school.  They call it Feast with Friends and you sign up to either host or attend a dinner party with other parents from different grades.  As soon as I heard about it I thought it sounded like fun so we volunteered to host.

When you cook for friends or family you know about their food preferences; when you are cooking for people you have never met it is a little bit different.  I did email my guests in advance to see if anyone had any food allergies – I certainly didn’t want to make anyone sick!  Here is the menu I came up with

  • Asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto
  • Mushroom and shrimp tarts
  • Tenderloin with red wine butter sauce
  • Rosemary popovers
  • Arugula salad
  • Mocha Icebox cake

All of these are things I’ve made before (which was helpful since I played in a paddle tennis tournament most of the day yesterday) and there wasn’t a lot of last minute attention needed so we could spend time getting to know our guests.  Here are the individual recipes:

Asparagus spears wrapped in proscuitto

This is easy to fix, is pretty healthy and looks nice on a platter.  I blanched the asparagus in the morning so it would be ready to go.

  • 3/4 lb asparagus spears, rough ends broken off
  • small amount of plain cream cheese
  • 1/2 lb very thinly sliced prosciutto

Blanch asparagus by cooking in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate.  Spread each spear with a small amount of cream cheese and wrap tightly with prosciutto.

Mushroom and shrimp tarts

We made these for the New Year’s Eve tapas feast and I made a note at the time that the filling would be great in purchased shells.  I buy boxes of the little pastry shells when I have parties – I often fill them with salmon tartar.  The filling doesn’t take long to make – I did that when I got home from my tournament.  I waited until our guests had arrived to fill and cook the shells – they will get soggy if you let them sit.

  • 1/4 lb chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/4 cup champagne (perfect since we’ll want to have some left for the toast at midnight)
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 5 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 2 oz. grated cheddar cheese
Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Cook until almost dry.  Add cream and shrimp and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Fill shells with mixture and top with grated cheese.  Cook in oven at 375 for 2 – 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and serve.

Roasted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce

This is a nice thing to serve for company unless you are entertaining vegetarians.  Most people like tenderloin and it doesn’t need to be served hot.  My husband cooked it about 2 hours before everyone arrived and had it carved and set up on a platter so everyone could serve themselves.  We like ours rare and everyone seemed happy with it.  The sauce is a little tricky – I thought I got it a little bit burned last night but my husband thought it was still good.

  • Beef tenderloin (about 1 lb per person is generous and allows leftovers)
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

If using whole tenderloin, cut in half.  Preheat oven to 475.  Using a heavy roasting pan with vegetable oil, start the beef on top of the stove over 2 burners.  Sear about 2 minutes a side so beef is browned on all sides and then cook in oven for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 125 for medium rare.  This can be prepared ahead of time.

Red wine sauce

  • 1 cup red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 TB minced chives
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon

Combine wine, bay leaves, salt and pepper and boil over high heat.  When reduced to about 2 TB, remove from heat, remove bay leaves and whisk in butter.  Whisk continuously to keep from separating.  Add in chives and tarragon.  Watch closely – this can burn quickly.  I’ve tried to make ahead of time but find it’s easier to make at the last minute to reduce the risk of separating.  If it does separate, try adding a small amount of cold water.

Rosemary popovers

We made these on Christmas Eve and they were so good, we couldn’t wait to make them again.  They need a little bit of last minute attention but they aren’t hard.  They are beautiful and so delicious!

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 5 TB melted butter
  • 4 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, salt, eggs, milk and 4 TB of butter in a blender for about 2 minutes.  Brush popover tins with remaining butter and heat in oven about 5 minutes.  Fill tins half full with batter and sprinkle each popover top with rosemary.  Bake 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Arugula Salad

I love the peppery taste of arugula and thought it would go well with the tenderloin.  I had the dressing in the jar

  • Arugula
  • 5 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • shaved Parmesan cheese

Rinse and dry arugula.  In a jar, toss remaining olive oil and lemon juice, mustard and shallot.  Pour dressing over arugula and top with Parmesan cheese.

Mocha Icebox cake

This dessert is perfect because you have to make it the night before and it is so delicious.  We have a local bakery – Otterbein’s that makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever.  If you can’t get Otterbein’s use top quality chocolate chip cookies.  (This is a perfect dessert for people who don’t like to bake because the bakery did the baking part for you.)

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 12 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 24 oz Otterbein’s chocolate chip cookies.

Combine all ingredients except cookies in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix at high speed until it forms firm peaks.

In an 8 inch springform pan, make a layer of chocolate chip cookies – try to cover the space as completely as possible.  Spread with a layer of the flavored whipped cream.  Continue layering cookies and cream making a total of 5 layers of each.  Top layer will be cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Before unmolding, run a knife around the outside of the cake and then remove the sides of the springform pan.  Cut into slices and serve to very happy guests.  This is a rich dessert so the pieces don’t need to be big.

Our guests were delightful, everyone seemed to like everything and it was a really nice evening.  I’ll volunteer to host again next year!

Steak and salad

After lots of poultry and lots of starches, we’re ready for a simple dinner of grilled steaks with a green salad.  I had some steaks in the freezer – we’ll marinate them in a little Worcestershire sauce and grill them.  On the side, a salad with fresh vinaigrette and a little shaved Parmesan cheese.  Here’s the recipe for the salad:

Arugula Salad

  • arugula
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 TB sherry vinegar
  • 3 – 4 TB good olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Parmesan cheese

Wash and dry the arugula.  Combine  shallot, vinegar, oil and mustard in a jar and shake well.  Toss with arugula and top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Sunday dinner

Tonight we will watch the Masters on television and enjoy our roast chicken.  I found this recipe for feta sauce on roasted potatoes that sounded delicious and the arugula salad will lighten things up a little bit.

Roast chicken

  • 1 roasting chicken
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 TB poultry seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Remove bag of giblets and reserve if making stock.  Wash chicken thoroughly inside and out and then dry.  Rub inside cavity with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Cut butter into pats and spread out on chicken.  Roast at 375 for 30 minutes and then at 350 – approximately 15 minutes per pound or until thermometer pops out.

Roasted potatoes with feta sauce

  • red potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 8 oz plain yogurt
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 TB lemon juice

Slice potatoes in half and toss with olive oil.  Roast at 375 for 30 – 40 minutes.  Combine yogurt, feta, mustard, garlic and lemon juice and serve on side.

Arugula Salad

  • arugula
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 4 TB good olive oil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • parmesan cheese

In a small jar shake shallot, lemon juice, olive oil and mustard.  Toss with arugula.  Top with thinly shaved parmesan cheese.

Pour yourself a nice glass of white wine, sit back and enjoy the dinner and the golf!

Dijon Pork Tenderloin and Arugula Salad

This pork recipe is one of my favorite winter dinners.  The leftovers are delicious and can be frozen if you would rather save it for a later date.  The peppery arugula salad will be a nice compliment to the pork.

Dijon Pork Tenderloin

  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Dried thyme leaves
  • 2 TB Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 1/2 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 4 TB milk
  • 2 TB Butter

Preheat oven to 450.  Sprinkle pork with thyme and pepper.  Use a skillet with an oven proof handle and over medium-high heat, swirl in oil and sear tenderloin, browning on all sides.  Transfer skillet to oven and roast until pork measures 145 on a meat thermometer.  (Start checking after 15 or 20 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs and whether you like your meat pink.)

Remove tenderloin to a cutting board and cover with foil.  Return skillet to top of stove and add garlic and shallots.  Cook over low heat until browned.  Add wine and simmer for 1 minute.  Add mustard, stock and milk and boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and stir in butter.  Top each serving with sauce. 

Arugula Salad

  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 TB Sherry Vinegar
  • 3 TB Olive oil
  • Arugula
  • Parmesan cheese

Chop shallot and add to a small jar with vinegar and olive oil (for a milder dressing increase olive oil to 4 TB).  Wash arugula and spin dry.  Toss with dressing and top with shavings of parmesan.