Since it is the Sunday before the big event, I thought I would discuss what I’m planning for Christmas dinner. I’ve reached the age where holidays are primarily a time for me to make a bunch of food for a bunch of people. The kids get cash because they don’t expect me to actually know what’s going on in their lives. And that’s all done, so I have only to prepare for dinner.
(Actually, the really hard thing is to get all my Frankly Curious writing done. Currently, I am two days ahead. But what with the other work that I need to do, and all the cooking I will need to do before, I figure I need to be four days ahead by Christmas eve. So if the work gets sloppy here, you’ll know why. I am planning some very pleasant diversions for those people who won’t be spending Christmas cooking.)
I have strong opinions about the main course for holiday dinners. We are an extremely wealthy country. So I really don’t understand why people go with turkey for these meals. Hasn’t everyone noticed that turkey is just a big chicken, except that it doesn’t taste as good? I like to at least do a ham. And the ultimate is prime rib. It’s shocking that I get push-back on this, given that I’m more than willing to buy it myself. Anyway, I got my way this year, although I still haven’t figured out where I’m going to buy it — or how much.
The main course is the easy part of a dinner. It’s the side dishes that are always a pain. That’s especially true for me because my default is to make way too many starches. This is because I love starches. But I know that people like variety. So I try to mix things up a little bit. Of course, that doesn’t mean that any of this is healthy. This is Christmas dinner, after all.
I have my two starch recipes that are hugely popular at every pot luck I go to. That’s not why I make them. I make them because they are hugely popular with me. The first is au gratin potatoes. And it is literally that. Well, I add one other thing. It is potatoes, onions, and cheese — repeated to the top of the casserole dish. And then I cook the hell out of it — normally for one hour the night before and then one hour on the day. It only gets better the more you cook it.
The other thing I make is Chef John’s Macaroni and Cheese. It’s unlike any macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. It has a wonderfully complex taste. The only thing is that I don’t exactly follow the recipe anymore. I’m not quite certain what it is that I do differently. But it’s close enough. If you’ve never made it, it is worth checking out. You will never see macaroni and cheese the same way again.
Nominal Vegetable Dishes
By tradition, my sister makes a green bean casserole. But over the last year, I’ve been making it a lot myself. There are basically two ways to make it. There is the easy way, which depends on the fact that everything tastes good when you drown it canned cream of mushroom soup. When it comes to this method, Paula Deen really does have the best recipe. And then, there is the hard way, which requires making your own roux. Auriel at All Recipes has a very good recipe for that. Which one I make will depend upon how rushed I feel.
I don’t want to have a salad for Christmas dinner. Unless a salad can be its own course, it seems too much like something tacked on — saying penance for the delicious foods you are about to eat. I suspect I will, ultimately have to include a salad in all of this. But I’m planning as if I can avoid it. And I found a really interesting recipe, Grilled Corn Salad. But I’m definitely going to add some other stuff to it; I just haven’t decided yet.
I don’t bother much with appetizers. To me, it’s pretty simple: get a couple of good cheeses, apple wedges, some crackers, maybe grapes, salami — dump it on a tray and serve. But I know there will be shrimp, because there always is. Also, there will be Swedish meatballs. And my sister makes excellent deviled eggs. After that, there really won’t be any need for dinner. But we will do it nonetheless because there are just some things you have to do to live in a civilized society.