Holiday dinner #1 – Christmas Eve

I’m hosting Christmas Eve dinner for my husband’s parents and Christmas dinner for my family.  We have some traditions associated with both meals but this year I’m trying to mix up the side dishes a little to keep things interesting.  For Christmas Eve we do beef.  This year’s menu:

  • Slow roasted beef tenderloin with horseradish mustard sauce
  • Peas and pancetta
  • Rosemary popovers

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.  Every time we serve it this way people comment on how delicious it is.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.

Peas and Pancetta

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 10 oz box frozen peas
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a saute pan and cook pancetta and shallot over medium heat until pancetta is crisp and shallot is tender and translucent.  Add peas and cook over medium low heat until peas are hot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.  We haven’t made these before but they sound good and fairly simple.

Rosemary popovers

These are one of our favorites.  Such a treat with the fresh rosemary and great with beef.  They would also be excellent with chicken or lamb.

  • 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.

There are still plenty of cookies in the house for dessert so plenty of time to get ready for Santa!

Holiday meals

Sorry to abandon you the week of Christmas. I’ve been busy with last minute preparations but I’m happy to say that all gifts have been purchased and wrapped. My in-laws arrive this afternoon and we will be having dinner at my sister’s house tomorrow night. We normally do it here but this year circumstances are a bit different. I’m assuming that you have already planned your holiday meals but in the unlikely event that you are still undecided about what to fix for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas dinner, here are our menus. Merry Christmas to you and yours and I’ll be back with a menu plan for next week!

Christmas Eve

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Tonight’s pick:

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomatoes Provencal

  • 1 tomato per person, halved
  • 1 clove garlic per tomato, thinly sliced
  • parsley
  • panko
  • olive oil

Top each tomato half with garlic slices.  Combine parsley (fresh or dried) with panko and enough olive oil to hold together.  Top garlic with mixture and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

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.

Christmas Dinner

This menu goes with a Smithfield ham and the beauty of it is that everything can be done ahead of time and none of it is particularly arduous so you can enjoy the day and an elegant dinner.  I picked up Buche de Noel from Patisserie Poupon for dessert.

Salmon Spread
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.

Biscuits
These are wonderful lightly buttered and stuffed with salty Smithfield ham.
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2/3 cup milk
Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until dough is in coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once. Stir dough until just combined. Knead on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 450 for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.
Scalloped Oysters
2 pints oysters
3 cups oyster crackers
8 TB oyster liquor (drained from oysters)
1 cup melted butter
4 TB cream
Preheat oven to 450. Drain oysters reserving liquor and wash oysters, checking for bits of shell. Marinate crackers in melted butter. Grease a shallow baking dish and layer crackers, oysters, crackers, oysters and crackers. Pour reserved oyster liquor and cream over top. Bake 30 minutes.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes
3 lbs sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
4 TB butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
4 TB cream
1/4 cup rum
Boil potatoes until soft. Peel and mash. Mash in butter and seasonings and put mixture in a casserole dish. Bake in hot oven (you can put in with the oysters after the turkey comes out) for 15 – 30 minutes or until hot. (Casserole can be made the day before and refrigerated – make sure to cook until hot.)
Baked tomatoes and artichokes
1 large can whole plum tomatoes (2 lbs, 3 oz)
1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp basil
2 TB sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a shallow ceramic casserole. Drain tomatoes and artichokes. Rinse artichokes and drain. Quarter artichoke hearts.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Saute onion and shallots until soft. Add tomatoes, artichokes, basil and sugar and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake at 325 for about 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are hot.

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.

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!

Holiday meals Part 1

If you are cooking for Christmas Eve or Christmas night, it’s time to get organized.  Of course, I’m going to share my grocery list and recipes but whatever you are making, get out your cookbooks or recipes and double check your ingredients.  You do not want to be running around on Christmas Day trying to find a Royal Farms store that sells shallots.  I’m going to do the ingredients by dish with recipes so you can choose what to include.

Menu for Christmas Eve

Smoked salmon on toast points

  • 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.

Roasted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, rosemary popovers and string beans with shallots

  • 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.

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.

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.

I’ll hardboil the eggs for the salmon appetizer tomorrow and then that just needs to be served.  The beef can be cooked ahead of time.  When we get home from our church service and pageant, I’ll get the popovers in the oven and do the prep for the haricots vert.  The sauce is last minute but doesn’t take long so I can enjoy my salmon and a glass of wine before the last minute pieces.  We are serving with a good Cabernet Sauvignon and finishing with homemade Christmas cookies from my stash.

Tomorrow I’ll blog Christmas dinner.