Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve Dinner Recap

This year was my husband's and my first Christmas as a married couple, so it seemed appropriate to host my family's annual Christmas Eve dinner for the first time ever. I thought it would give my mom a nice break, but my ulterior motive was a chance to try out some party food recipes that I'd been filing away for just such an occasion. Here's what I served:

Crudites with homemade tzatziki (pretty much prepared as printed on Smitten Kitchen plus mint, minus vinegar, and hands-down the best tzatziki any of us have ever tasted), Trader Joe's pastry pups *blush*. We also served some smoked salmon and Italian cheese that my mom brought over.

Cambodian beef salad
This is one of my standbys (via Nigella Lawson) and it couldn't be simpler. Just grill a steak (I do mine medium rare), then mix the pan juices with juice from two limes, two serranos (finely chopped), one shallot (thinly sliced), two tablespoons of fish sauce, one teaspoon of brown sugar, and a handful of chopped mint. Drizzle this dressing over some salad mix, with the slices of steak served on top. To turn this into a main course, just add a handful of cooked bean thread noodles. They will soak up the crazy-addictive dressing and add some heft to the salad. This salad was decimated by the end of the night.

Tiny twice-baked potatoes
...because everything tastes better when it's teensy. I had the worst time scooping out the insides of my halved Yukon Golds until I landed on the following technique: fold a paper towel into quarters and place in your left hand (to protect it from the hot potato). Grab the potato firmly with the protected hand. Using a demitasse spoon, break into the center of the potato about a centimeter from the edge and work your way around the outside, sort of scooping as you go.

Mash the centers with about a cup of sour cream, a handful of chopped chives, 5 pieces of crisp, crumbled, applewood-smoked bacon, and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme. I also added about ¼ teaspoon of salt. Restuff the potatoes, top with Parmesan, and cook in an oven at 450 for about 15 minutes. The original recipe came from Fine Cooking. Do you like how I pretty much doubled the suggested amount of bacon?

Spaghetti squash with lemon-ginger dressing
This was kind of disappointing on two counts. I accidentally overcooked the spaghetti squash, so it wasn't quite as crunchy as I like it. And the infamous Otsu dressing that I found mentioned on about 101 food blogs wasn't tangy enough for my taste. I preferred this dish the first time I made it, with a super simple ginger/rice vinegar dressing, the details of which I naturally cannot recall right now.

Brussels sprouts and pancetta (from the Lucques cookbook)
I love the veggie dishes at all of Suzanne Goin's restaurants, so it makes sense that her recipes for veggies would pretty much rock. Heat up two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter in a large pan (I used my wok). Cook the cleaned brussels in the oil/butter mixture for about 4-5 minutes. Take two shallots and four cloves of garlic and blitz them in the food processor. Add this and about ½ pound of finely diced bacon or pancetta to the pan. Let the bacon get crispy. Add ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar and 1 cup of homemade chicken broth. Let reduce to about ¼ cup of liquid. Taste and add salt if necessary. This was fabulous.

Two roast ducks from Chinatown
We saved the bones for duck broth, of course.

My sister Jen provided the dessert, which was a chocolate cake and pumpkin pie from Prolific Oven.

The best part? There were hardly any leftovers, so I got to return to my regularly scheduled daily dose of soup noodles the very next day.

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