No matter how much French and Italian food I might cook the rest of the year, for me, Christmas is all about English Food (well, and German — I did grow up in the Midwest after all). I don’t understand people who have turkey for Christmas — people! you just had a turkey! Branch out! (And in our family, ham was for Easter, not Christmas. Every family has it’s holiday food rules and that was just one of ours.)
No, Christmas in our family was always beef — either a whole filet for a crowd (boring, even when done as a Wellington) or my favorite, a standing rib roast. The best Christmas I ever cooked was in California, before we moved here. I spent a small fortune on a gorgeous, dry-aged, Niman Ranch standing rib roast and did it with some lovely green beans and carrots (blanched, then reheated with Christmas-only quantities of butter), and a yorkshire pudding. I’d never done one of those myself and I remember pouring the batter into the hot beef fat in the roasting pan. “Well that’s never going to work,” I thought as I put the pan back in the oven. I was sure the pudding was going to be a disaster but it wasn’t — it actually puffed up and did it’s thing and was delicious — a triumph.
My other standby when I was younger and too poor to even think about something as fabulous as a standing rib roast was goose — goose isn’t really that expensive and there’s a terrific recipe in The New James Beard that had an apple and prune stuffing. It’s really wonderful and because goose is so rich, you can feed a lot of people off one goose — I’ve done a Christmas goose for eight a couple of times. (And as an added incentive, you get a nice jar of gorgeous goose fat out of it — there is really nothing better than potatoes roasted in goose fat. Sigh.)
Now that I don’t host Christmas any more, I’m always on the lookout for things to bring. A few years ago, it was the Croquembouche that Wouldn’t Die, and last year I made a trifle that Nina requested specifically (she gave me the recipe she wanted me to make). I love her, but that was boring and it included cake from a mix!? Yuck. And Maderia — double yuck.
This year I’m thinking of steamed puddings? I have all those plums that I put up last fall — Plum Pudding is made with prunes of course, but I might be able to futz around with a recipe. Or some sort of German Plum Stollen? I’m going to have to go do a little investigative googling … But we had a steamed persimmon pudding at Thanksgiving that was delicious — cakey and nice and not too sweet and warm — it was really great. And of course, anything you can light on fire is always a hit with the kids.
I’ve also been thinking of doing an Antelope Wellington for Christmas appetizers — without the pate but with lots of wild mushrooms. Maybe Antelope/Morel Wellington? Talk about local … Or maybe I can talk the MH into giving me some birds so I can make this gorgeous Game Pie that Gordon Ramsey published in the Times of Londonlast week.
Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho … the holidays are coming … all sorts of fun cooking ahead!