Christmas Eve. I have the tree aglow, candles in the windows, the table set with a royal hunt pattern tableware, sparkling glasses and my parent’s silver. The kitchen is busy and the house fragrant. If I can get Elisabeth to turn off the Disney channel and put on some quiet music it would be a scene right out of a TV show.
This year, like most, we are having a smoked ham from Harrington’s of Vermont. Famous for using corn cobs and maple wood to smoke their meats, Harrington’s has become Michelle’s family favorite. Alongside of which I’m roasting yams with carrots and parsnips. Simply roasted in the oven, after being drizzled with olive oil, until tender and slightly caramelized this is simple and hearty and great for leftovers on the Christmas lunch brunch buffet. Twenty minutes (or so, no need to be precise) sprinkle the root vegetables with some roughly chopped (fresh) herbs like tarragon and rosemary then stir the vegetables up a bit and continue cooking. These fresh herbs make seem more like a Christmas meal and the smell permeates the table and kitchen. We are adding a bitter green gratin, flavored with nutmeg, thyme and salt and pepper, but I am substituting whole leaf spinach for the mustard greens in hopes of milder flavor profile. It also contains Kale, and a cup each of grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheese with a light Panko bread crumb topping. A cup of heavy cream and milk ensures holiday decadence. And moistness.
Also, to brighten the palette we have a salad composed of an array oranges, kiwi fruit and star fruit. This mélange of fruit salad can use any fruit, but the wider array of citrus the better, so get a few different varieties of oranges. If you don’t have time to ‘supreme’ the fruit, just segment it (You will need to peel the kiwi otherwise your guests will be picking the furry skin out of their mouths and that is not attractive.) Then drizzle with a sugar syrup infused with basil leaves, peppercorns and pinch of salt. Give it the occasional stir and let it sit for a few hours before serving. You can set this up way ahead of time and it is a great task to get the kids to help with. Again it is still good the next morning!
Michelle is also baking pop-overs too. As you can tell, everything lends itself to a great Christmas Eve dinner and any easy lunch the next day. Make large portions because once you set everything up there little work left to do but enjoy the rapid fire pace of the kids unwrapping gifts and possibly enjoy an open house for friends to stop by.
A German Apple Taart is for desert. The Germans, and most northern Europeans, make their apple pie differently by using semolina flour with All-Purpose flour for the dough. It does not give you that flakey ‘American as apple pie’ feel, but it is equally delicious. It is made in a spring form pan, and the dough is crumbly and easily pieced together, which adds to appeal and you add raisins to the filing with cubed Granny Smith apples. The seasonings are the same: cinnamon and vanilla and a tablespoon of brandy never hurts. A lattice dough top completes the traditional look.