Whether you enjoy the holidays as a couple or with friends and family this menu is sure to please. Several of the dishes can be made in advance which makes your life easier. They are noted with asterisks. Also, you have an assortment of appetizers and side dishes to choose from. No need to make everything unless you want to. Select the ones you find the most interesting and let your creativity shine.
I strongly recommend you have all the ingredients grouped together on the counter for each dish before you start cooking, including measuring utensils and cookware. This is a good practice no matter how small or large your menu.
Marinated Black Olives
Sweet Barbequed Meatballs
Black Olives in Oil*
1 can medium-size pitted black olives, drained
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
Glass jar with a secure lid
Empty the olives into the jar. Add the garlic. Pour in the olive oil to cover. Refrigerate at least 1 week. The mix will become thick and cloudy. It’s okay, that’s the oil solidifying.
To serve, set the jar on the counter until the oil becomes clear and normal consistency, which will take several hours. Spoon out the quantity of olives you wish to serve into a pretty dish. Be sure to have toothpicks. Put the jar back in the fridge for future use. You can refill with more olives and the mixture can stay good for up to three months.
Sweet Barbequed Meatballs**
1 bag frozen Italian seasoned meatballs
10 oz. grape jelly
1 bottle barbecue sauce
¼ cup dry red wine
Combine all ingredients in a medium-size saucepan. Be sure the meatballs are covered with the
jelly and barbecue sauce. Adjust the amounts as necessary. Be sparing if you add more wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until meatballs are heated through.
Keep warm on the stove or in a low-heat oven until you're ready to serve. To make your life easier during the busy holiday season, prepare this appetizer several days in advance of your party. Be sure to cover and refrigerate. On party day, remove the meatballs from the fridge at least 2 hours prior to serving. Warm either on the stovetop or in the oven.
4 oz. brie with rind removed
1 tbsp. celery, finely chopped
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. chives, snipped fine
Pre-baked mini-tart shells, usually found in the frozen food section
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Poppy seed, optional
Mash brie with a fork in a bowl. Mix in the celery, pepper. Gradually beat in the cream cheese. Fold in chives. Cover and chill in refrigerator until needed.
20 – 30 minutes before serving peel, core, and quarter pears. Cut into slices and then mix with lemon juice. This stops them from turning brown.
Fill shell with cheese mixture. Stand a pear piece on top and then sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds.
Precooked shrimp, thawed if frozen
A few lemon slices
Arrange a few lettuce leaves on a plate. Pour sauce into a small bowl and then set in the center of the lettuce. Lay the shrimp around the bowl in a nice design. Add the lemon for those who like a taste on their shrimp. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
1 beef tenderloin
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
½ cup red wine
2 tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 450° F or 235°C.
Season the meat with pepper.
Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the meat and brown on all sides, including the two ends.
Set the pan in the oven and roast 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer it to a cutting board and tent with foil.
Pour all but a thin film of fat from the pan. Add the shallot and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, 2 – 3 minutes.
Pour in the wine. Raise heat to high. Scrape any brown bits around the side and bottom into the wine.
The sauce will become syrupy in about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and then whisk in the butter.
Cut the meat into thick slices and drizzle with the sauce.
1 bunch asparagus
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 tbsp butter
Metal vegetable steamer
Add chicken stock and dry vermouth to a medium size saucepan. Insert vegetable steamer, then add tap water to just below the bottom holes.
Trim the bottom ends of the asparagus to fit your saucepan. Add spears and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adjusting the heat to a strong simmer. In 4-5 minutes the asparagus should be crisp tender.
Lay asparagus in an ovenproof dish, spread butter over them. Tent with foil and set in the oven to keep warm while you finish preparing the meal.
I head broccoli
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
¼ cup gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Trim the flowerettes from the stalk.
Heat a medium-size frying pan on medium-high heat. Add oil. Stir in broccoli and butter when the oil shimmers. Turn and flip broccoli to coat well. You may need a little more oil for this. Sauté until crisp tender.
Sprinkle cheese over the broccoli and serve. Or tent with foil and set in the oven while you finish preparing dinner.
10 baby Bello mushrooms
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
¼ medium onion sliced thin
healthy splash of dry vermouth or white wine
Clean the mushrooms with a dry paper towel. I prefer to slice the mushrooms in half lengthwise. They cook better. This can be done early in the day if that’s more convenient.
Set a frying pan on medium heat. When the pan is quite warm, add olive oil and butter. As the foam subsides add the sliced onion. Sauté for a few minutes, be careful not to brown or burn the onion.
Stir in the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until well coated with the oil mixture. Add more butter or oil if the mixture seems dry.
Pour vermouth or wine onto the mushrooms then cook a 2 minutes longer. This dish can be served hot or room temp, but not cold.
Chicken stock, fresh or store bought
1 bay leaf or 2 tbsp. dried basil
2 small potatoes per person
Butter to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
Fill a pot a little less than half filled with chicken stock. Add bay leaf or basil. Peel a circle around the potatoes and rinse. Drop them into pot. Cover the potatoes with water and a lid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat so potatoes continue to cook on a soft boil.
Fork test after 15 - 20 minutes. It should slide in easily when the potatoes are done.
Drain water and remove bay leaf. If you’ve used basil, most will drain away and that’s okay. You want the flavor more than the leaves. Add butter and pepper. Turn with a spatula or spoon to coat well. Return potatoes and pot to burner with the heat turned off.
If you opt to cook the potatoes early in the day be sure to remove the lid so they cool to room temperature. After they do cover with the lid and set aside. Set this saucepan in the oven after the Chateaubriand is done and you’re preparing the sauce. Set the oven at 210°F or 100°C.
1 plum tomato per 2 people sliced ¼ inch thick
¼ tsp. garlic pressed
½ cup olive oil
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. scallions sliced thin
1 tbsp. finely cut fresh basil or 1 teas. dried
1 tsp. parsley dried – if you use fresh, chop well
Arrange the tomatoes in slightly overlapping concentric circles on a deep, round plate or platter.
Prepare the dressing by blending the oil, vinegar, basil, garlic and pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture over the tomatoes.
Combine the scallions and parsley, then sprinkle evenly over the top. Cover and set on the counter until ready to serve.
Orange Granite – Flavored Ice**
2 cups water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
3 tbsp. lemon juice
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Stir only until the sugar dissolves. Timing from the moment the sugar water begins to boil, cook the mixture for exactly 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, stir the orange and lemon juices into the syrup. Pour mixture into a shallow metal pan.
Freeze the granite for 3 to 4 hours. Every 30 minutes, stir and scrape in the ice particles that form on the sides of the pan. The granite should be a fine, snowy texture. For a coarser texture, which I prefer, freeze the flavored syrup in ice cube trays until solid, then drop cubes into a plastic bag and smash with a heavy wooden spoon or mallet.
This is where I head to the grocery store. Gelato is not an easy item to make. I suggest you buy one of the flavor combinations to end your meal on a sweet note.
Make at least one week in advance of serving.
Can be made one day in advance of serving.
Prepare early in the day you plan to serve.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a beautiful New Year!