Monday, December 25, 2017

The Christmas Feast

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Happy Christmas to all our dear readers from all of us at Jungle Red! We hope everyone is having a fabulous day, however you celebrate.

And now, let's talk about what we're eating!

We've never really had a set tradition for Christmas Day dinner, partly because we often went to family. But the last couple of  years we've stayed at home, which I absolutely love. I mean, you have to use the good china at least once or twice a year, right? 

But what to cook? I refuse to do turkey. Too much work and mess and I don't like the Thanksgiving foods well enough to want to do them twice. So last year, I brought home from England Jamie Oliver's Christmas Dinner cookbook. I was so excited! We'd have a proper English dinner! Then my darling daughter insisted that we should have....enchiladas. And I made them. From scratch, including the sauce. Two kinds of enchiladas, as one guest was a vegetarian. By the time I got those pans in the oven, my kitchen looked like I'd murdered someone. I was exhausted, and oh, the mess.

This year, I'm sticking to my guns. A standing rib roast from our local organic butcher, a la Julia Child, with horseradish sauce. 

Jamie's baked mashed potatoes with Red Leicester cheese. Jamie's baked creamed spinach. And Yorkshire puddings! (Jamie's recipe is fab.) We'll have Christmas crackers for everyone (the English pull-apart favors, which contain jokes and toys and silly paper hats.) And for dessert, I'm getting out the trifle bowl I haven't used in years for a proper English trifle, and we're buying Sticky Toffee pudding from Whole Foods.

And the vegetarian guest is now a "former vegetarian", so no worries there.

What's on your table, REDS?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Champagne, and oysters Rockefeller. (If I can get it together to make them. It's a huge pain, but so delicious!) Rack of lamb, and yes, Yorkshire pudding! (Which is so much fun when it works.) Asparagus, maybe, grilled, with Hollandaise. (SUPER easy, from Joy of Cooking.)  Dessert, hum. Got to think about that. Maybe something with lemon curd? Any Ideas?

And really, Debs, I think turkey is easy. It just has a long ramp up time. Rack of lamb? 20 minutes tops.

And now I am starving.

HALLIE EPHRON: Christmas eve is the big dinner chez nous. We get dressed up (like Downton Abbey without the servants). But these days it begins at 5:30 and ends at 6... because we re determined to include the grandbabies before they melt down and must be summarily tossed into the bathtub. A hot bath soothes savage beasties. And before the reading of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

To drink: Prosecco and sparkly cider. Lobster bisque. I follow an ancient NY Times (Craig Claiborne) recipe that is spectacular and all the lobster meat goes into it. Potato pancakes with... maybe a rib roast? I'll figure that out at the market. Desert will be mandelbrot, a double-cooked cookie that's full of chocolate and pecans and maraschino cherries.

Christmas dinner we share with friends, Pat Kennedy (who's been a guest here on Jungle Red) and her family. Pat's making beef wellington! And I'm bringing baked stuffed potatoes. Food at her house is always yummy.  

DEBS: Hallie, we want the lobster bisque recipe!

INGRID THOFT: We start the day with a breakfast spread that includes baked French toast or cinnamon rolls, fruit salad, bagels and lox, and sometimes pumpkin bread.  Baked stuffed shrimp has often been on the Christmas dinner menu, and I swear, my mom’s is better than any restaurant version!  Beef tenderloin and prime rib have also been featured, and now I’m craving Yorkshire Pudding, which we don’t generally have on Christmas, but it would be a delicious addition.  A Buche de Noel will be the main event at dessert, and there are usually chocolate truffles that are passed around having been sent from relatives or friends.  We’ll wash it all down with wine or sparkling cider, and for those who still have room, a small glass of eggnog.  Let the food coma begin!

RHYS BOWEN: Our day begins with hot mince pies and sausage rolls. Then a full English brunch late morning. Goodies at tea-time and then turkey, roast potatoes, veggies followed by apple crumble, custard, cream, and Christmas pudding for those who like it! There will be 9 of us this year. Oh, and I've a bottle of good champagne waiting too.

DEBS: One bottle, Rhys???
JENN McKINLAY: Mimosas to start with and ooey gooey pastry. Ham. Always, ham, which I love so it's no hardship. Then it's scalloped potatoes or sweet potato casserole, green beans, a green leafy salad, and dinner rolls (popovers preferred). Those are the highlights and dessert is homemade apple pie, a platter of cookies, cheese cake or maybe a pecan pie, depending on the mood of the chef (me).

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Here on the Big Island (I can't tell you how luxe it feels to be typing that!) we're having a simple made-at-home meal before heading out to the beach, also with champagne, like Rhys! A big, big change from our usual Christmas dinner for 25 - 40 guests! For Christmas Eve, however, we went out to eat at the wonderful Ponds restaurant in Hilo, for the traditional Christmas feast of fresh fish and ridiculously good tropical fruits! It was far superior to our usual Christmas eve dinner of takeout Chinese. I will admit to indulging in a gooey dessert. As much as I love prime rib, ham and mashed potatoes, I'm not sorry to pass them by just for once!

LUCY BURDETTE: I feel a little guilty saying this when you all are preparing such fabulous spreads on Christmas day – we are going out to brunch! We will be in between celebrations with two sets of family, and that makes Christmas a breather day. The night before we will have crabcakes and shrimp and Caramel cake, so that’s my big holiday cooking. Except for cookies, we have lots of cookies on hand! Happy Christmas everyone! (as they say on THE CROWN.)

DEBS: I'm sure we all wish we were having what Julia's having, but if you have a moment, please share your feast with us!


  1. Everyone’s menu sounds so yummy . . . I’d like to borrow an idea from Lucy and drop by each place with some little take-out containers . . . .

    We always have made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls [my mom’s recipe] for breakfast.
    Like Debs, I don’t like having turkey for every holiday, so the turkey makes it to the table only for Thanksgiving.
    Christmas dinner is always rib roast with horseradish sauce, cheesy garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, peas, pickles, olives, pickled watermelon rind, homemade rolls and butter and anything else I decide to make. [There will always be macaroni and cheese if my currently-deployed son-in-law is here.] Each of the grandbabies also get to choose something special they’d like included in the Christmas dinner.
    Wine or sparkling cider to drink. Homemade plum pudding for dessert.
    [But there’s also mince tarts and lots of cookies, so I’m sure we’ll have cookies with our coffee later on].

    I’ve been instructed to make a triple berry fruit cobbler and “anything chocolate” which translates into chocolate fudge cake squares for our big family get-together. So there’s that as well . . . . I guess there will be lots of food for the holidays.

    However you celebrate, may your holiday be filled with happiness . . . .

  2. I'm having what Debs is having. Literally. I'll bring the cake for the trifle.

    And Joan, I want your watermelon rind pickle recipe. My grandmother used to make those but we did not inherit her recipe, so I've had to do without for far too many years.

    Merry Christmas, everybody!

    1. Gigi,
      This is my grandmother’s recipe, adapted a bit to make it easier to follow. Like most vintage recipes, there are almost no measurements. Grammie’s succinct and brief recipe says: “seven pounds fruit, one pint vinegar, four pounds sugar . . . .”

      Cut the white part of the watermelon rind into chunks about an inch in size to make approximately five quarts of fruit.
      Blanch until fork tender, but not mushy; drain.
      Mix two cups vinegar, eight cups sugar; heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
      Add the drained watermelon rind and a spice bag containing four cinnamon sticks, two tablespoons whole cloves.
      Cook until watermelon rind is translucent.
      Divide into canning jars; process.

      Although my grandmother’s recipe calls for putting the spices into a cheesecloth bag, I have made it adding the spices directly into the pickling liquid and haven’t noticed any difference. If I have the spices in the liquid, I put a few cloves and a piece of stick cinnamon into each jar.

      Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas . . . .

    2. Want picture of that trifle please

  3. I'm postponing Celebrating Christmas to the 29th when my daughter and her companion will be coming home for the long weekend.
    This being said , I have a piece of tourtière ( meat pie) baking in the oven for my breakfast as every Christmas morning. It's the only day I eat meat for breakfast but it is my tradition and I love tourtière (comfort food from my youth).
    From snowy Quebec, I wish to every Red, commenter and reader : JOYEUX NOËL !

  4. My brother usually provides the main course for Christmas dinner (pork loin stuffed with onions, apples and sage and various accompaniments) even though the gathering is at my house. But, he's still in recovery from hip replacement surgery so this year my sister and I have to step up to the task. And, we're taking the easy way out -- turkey, mashed potatoes and broccoli casserole. And Christmas cookies for dessert -- that's the only tradition.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful day and a very Merry Christmas season!

    1. Best wishes to your brother as he recovers! I got a new hip earlier this year and it was much easier than a knee.

  5. For breakfast, we usually have cinnamon rolls and bacon, but my daughter's not feeling well, so we'll most likely have that tomorrow. My son is asking for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, so I will make that, and I'm having just an english muffin and tea.

    For dinner, we're going to my brother and sil's. On the menu is ham, potatoes, mac 'n cheese (for picky kids), green beans, and whatever sides and desserts everyone brings. I'm bringing broccoli casserole and chocolate walnut pie. My brother and sil met working in a restaurant (they are both now scientists), so they always have lots of yummy, creative appetizers and desserts. After that, we have presents for the little ones and game-playing. Can't wait!

    Merry Christmas to all!

  6. We didn't get home from mass until almost two a.m., in a hefty snowstorm too. It is snowing again this morning, and only the beasties and I are up. They had their usual breakfast and I'm making my way thru a coffee latte with Kahlua. Like Rhys, we'll have sausage rolls and mince pies while we open presents. Then a walk in the snow with the dogs. It's still snowing hard, so the walk is best done sooner rather than later.

    Last night we had ham, brussel sprouts, smashed potatoes and whatever Christmas delight made it into our mouths. Today we will have what is traditional for Christmas eve, a cioppino full of fresh fish and shell fish a la Aliotto's in San Francisco, with crusty bread. A bottle of Prosecco is chilling as is a bottle of sparkling hard cider, bought in Canada last fall, at the monastery of Louise Penny fame. We will lift a glass to all the Reds and send a prayer to Ann Cleeves, such a sad Christmas for her.

    Merry Christmas my darlings xox

  7. Merry Christmas everyone! This all sounds so yummy—next year we’ll have a recipe exchange!
    Have a wonderful day—it’s pouring down snow here!

  8. Merry Christmas! The cinnamon buns are in the oven, the fire's roaring, and it's white outside! I hope everyone has a wonderful day, whatever you're doing!

  9. This year we opted for the big meal on Christmas Eve so it was standing rib roast that hubs smoked outside and twice baked potatoes and squash casserole with Christmas cookies and apple pie. Today is much simpler - crock pot macaroni and cheese and fried chicken, followed by Christmas cookies and apple pie. It's just the two of us this year and I'm working this week so we wanted to be sure to have leftovers to get us through the week. Still debating the New Year's Eve menu.

    Hank, your oysters sound yum! Hallie - I have the same NYT cookbook. The Lobster Bisque is to die for.

  10. Merry Christmas, or whatever you celebrate, to all! It's cold and windy, but snowless, here in suburban Maryland. Since we're all in a hotel, younger son brought some stuff over and made us all yummy breakfast sandwiches, which we inhaled while helping the kids open their presents. Every year we learn about something new; this year it's Hatchimals. And I received a game called Punderdome, at which my family for some reason expects me to excel. Soon we'll head over the river and through the woods to my parents' place for pie and ice cream, with the same 13 of us who went out for a lovely dinner last night.

  11. I feel you are all missing out on a holiday tradition of having at least one pie per person at dinner. Nevertheless, wishing all a great and meaningful day (made much more greater with pie, if possible)!

  12. We don't have food traditions for Christmas Day in my house, but I've greatly enjoyed reading about all of yours! I've mashed them together and, in my mind, enjoyed this menu: Mince pies and sausage rolls, oysters Rockefeller and Yorkshire pudding. Hardly nutritionally sound, but the YouTube videos (especially Jamie Oliver's) were luscious and lovely. Have a lovely day everyone... from the super-deep-freeze-cold Canadian Prairie.

  13. Very easy day for us. My daughter found the recipe for Bennigan's Monte Christo sandwiches. That will be dinner. Maybe we will make a pie for later. or not.

  14. Yesterday I did all the prep cooking: raisin bread, egg and apple brunch casserole, egg, sausage, and potato brunch casserole, both consumed this morning, beef bourguignon with wild rice, Christmas salad with avocado and strawberries, and apple pie for tonight. Christmas Eve was ham with cranberry glaze and sweet potato casserole, cooked ahead of time and "held" in the warming drawer during the children's service.

  15. Rib roast on Christmas eve, with smashed potatoes, green beans, cheesecake with coffee. Later, spiked nog while listening to The Messiah and opening 1 gift each (there's just the two of us). When the music is over, we blow out the candles, turn off the fire, load the stockings and off to tuck in for our winter's nap until morning.

    Breakfast is usually cinnamon rolls, but this year was cranberry swirl loaf, as we wanted to go lighter. Then with coffee we open gifts (the cat likes the ribbons) and relax until lunch of leftovers, and also dinner of same. East day for us, but there's lots of cookies and cheesecake left over.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  16. Happy Christmas! My husband and I had breakfast alone -- cinnamon rolls, sausage, and scrambled eggs. Midday Daughter #1 arrived and took over the kitchen. All I have done is set the table! She is making a standing rib roast, mashed potatoes, beets, spinach, and I think she said corn pudding. I slipped in for a few minutes to make a cuppa, but she threw me out! And, she made a chocolate layer cake. Thank you, dear Elizabeth! She also chose the wine. Daughter #3 with husband and three little girls arrive soon. Can't wait! Their gifts are under our tree.

  17. Happy Holidays, Everyone! May your belly be full and your spirits be light! XO

  18. Thank you so much, everyone, for sharing! And apologies for not checking in earlier, but was it was a very busy--and lovely Christmas. More tomorrow!