A Christmas Feast
December 26, 2010 § 4 Comments
This was my third Christmas with my husband and our second year ever hosting a holiday meal. We hosted Christmas Eve dinner the first year we were married in 2008. Last year, Christmas just wasn’t the same as my mom was in Kansas City taking care of her very ill father who since passed away. Thus, hosting Christmas Eve this year with my mom back home and my grandma now living here was very special to me. To make it even more special, my husband and I have been in our very first house just two months so this was our first Christmas here.
My mom always prepares a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, etc. so I really wanted to find unique recipes to try. I knew I wanted to incorporate this Sweet Potato Ravioli my friend’s mom had made years ago that I still remembered. The protein is usually difficult for me at times like this – since I don’t like much other than chicken there aren’t that many options. I perused the usual Epicurious and Food Network for inspiration as well as flipping through probably 10 cookbooks. In the end I decided to try a Cornish hen recipe with cranberry and thyme sauce that looked different and festive. I love cornish hens and my mom has made them for me since I was younger so I was excited to try this recipe. It probably wasn’t the brightest idea to do my shopping the day of Christmas Eve, but that’s what I ended up doing. Luckily, I didn’t have any problems with finding everything for my menu with the exception of the cornish hens. Alas, there were none and as tempting as it was to go on a city-wide search, I opted for a traditional fryer chicken and asked the butcher to cut in half as the recipe called for the cornish hen. In the end, I landed on the following festive menu:
- Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter
- Cornish Game Hen with Double Cranberry and Thyme Sauce
- Brussel Sprouts and Green Beans
- Roasted Acorn Squash
- Orange Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake
- Pumpkin Flan
We started our evening with the Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter and they were a huge success! Using the wonton wrappers the recipe calls for is so simple and much easier than making your own pasta sheets on such a time crunched day. The filling was very basic, just mashed sweet potato with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg – but coupled with the delicate wonton wrapping and rich brown butter sauce it was divine. I actually ran out of balsamic vinegar so I was only able to add a splash but I didn’t miss anything. I definitely want to try these again and see what they taste like topped with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper for a lighter version. For a holiday though – this was decadent and everyone enjoyed them. I did have some leftover and thought perhaps I could freeze them to make at later date – this didn’t work for me though. I’m not too big on freezing things but when I make empanadas, I freeze them in a single layer on plates and then put them in a plastic bag once they are frozen so they don’t freeze to each other. I thought I could do this with these ravioli but the delicate wontons froze to the plate and when I tried to pull off they all broke apart. Next time I’ll just make less as two ravioli per person were plenty as a nice appetizer.
The other favorite of the night were the brussel sprouts and green beans. Green beans are one of my favorite foods but I actually hate brussel sprouts. I bought them at the market though because everyone else in my family loves them. I started looking for recipes and saw many with bacon that I thought would work nice. I cooked the bacon until crisp and removed with a slotted spoon. To the bacon grease I sauteed several chopped shallots, one chopped onion, and a few minced garlic cloves. After a few minutes I added the brussel sprouts (cut in half to cook quicker) and green beans (I had blanched these earlier to speed up the cooking process), some chicken stock, and let that simmer for about 20 minutes. In the haste of cooking everything I forgot to add salt and pepper but these veggies were so good they didn’t even need it! As I said, I don’t eat brussel sprouts but I tried these and they were fantastic. I really enjoyed them and look forward to making them like this again.
As for the rest of the meal – the chicken turned out pretty nicely. It obviously needed to cook substantially longer than the hens would have needed but it still worked out fine. I didn’t follow the sauce to the “T” but used the recipe as a guideline. I only added a very small bit of flour and the sauce actually thickened very nicely. As it turned out, I guess I don’t care of acorn squash. I’d bought them because they looked so interesting at the market, but turned out I don’t care for their texture. (Surprised me as I’m a butternut squash fan). Everyone else enjoyed it though.
Now for the best part – or so I’d hoped – dessert! I love a rich chocolate cake so this recipe sounded amazing – Orange Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake. I’d made the cake the evening before and with each ingredient I added, my confidence rose. However, as I made the batter it continued to grow and I couldn’t imagine how it would all fit in the cake pan. It fit “perfectly” though – almost to the top which I now realize I should have just poured half the mixture. The batter was absolutely delicious – I couldn’t stop licking the bowl! I had high hopes for my chocolate cake. At the end of its cooking time though the center was still completely wet and it needed to have “moist crumbs” so I continued cooking it. Another 15 minutes in the oven and it still had not cooked all the way in the center but I hated to risk overcooking it. In the end, it was a dense chocolate cake and a bit overdone. Although everyone assured me it was quite tasty, I was disappointed with the texture. Oh well, I’ll try another chocolate cake recipe sometime – or I’ll just make the batter again and lick the bowl because it was so good 🙂
After my cake looked like it might not be a success I decided to make the pumpkin flan – I’d made it a few times before and it was a hit so I figured it would be a good backup. This recipe is really easy and quick to make.
In the end, it was a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner – a happy first in our new home with hopefully many more wonderful Christmas Dinners (and cooking experiments) to come!