We had nine to Christmas dinner this year. I love turkey and stuffing, but have a very small and erratic oven, so instead of the possibility of having a partly-done turkey, I decided on a roast, and the rest of the menu followed easily after that. This is a fairly low-stress menu, and most of the things can be made or partly-prepared ahead of time.
Traditionally, Yorkshire Pudding was cooked around the roast beef in the same pan. Nowadays it is usually cooked separately, but I think it's wonderful when allowed to cook in the meat fat, so that it absorbs some of the meat's flavor. It will puff up quite dramatically, but flatten a bit when removed from the oven.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup water
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon (or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon)
At least 1 hour ahead of baking, prepare the pudding batter. Mix the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Measure the milk and water together, and gradually add this to the flour, beating until smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the herbs. Cover and refrigerate for one hour, or up to 8 hours ahead.
When the roast is removed from the oven, reset the oven temperature to 450° F. Transfer the beef fat to a large shallow baking dish, using at least enough fat to cover the bottom of the dish. Rewhisk the batter, and pour it into the baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F and bake until the edges of the pudding are golden-brown and the center is puffed, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Makes about 10 servings. Active work time, 10 minutes; total preparation time, 1 hour and 40 minutes.
My aunt, a legendary cook in our family, gave me this recipe for yams. She rarely makes it the same way twice, but it's always good. Try slicing or roughly mashing the yams, mixing the nuts in or spreading them on the top, using the nuts whole or roughly chopped, or adding chopped crystallized ginger.
1 2-lb. can yams, drained
1 1-lb. jar applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 cup walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease a flat baking dish or casserole dish.
Pour the yams into the prepared dish. Mix together the applesauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, mace, salt, and brandy. Pour the sauce over the yams and dot with butter. Sprinkle the nuts over the top.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until nicely browned and bubbly.
Serves 10, with leftovers. Active work time, 5 minutes; total preparation time, about 40 minutes.
The fresh green beans I bought at the market recently were such a hit with my girls -- who clustered around begging to nibble on the raw beans as I trimmed them -- that this year, I made green beans with lemon butter, a simple recipe from Nigella Lawson's Feast. About three pounds of green beans with about 1/4 cup of butter and a trimmed, seeded, and sliced lemon made a very simple and delicious dish.
This salad is a recipe from my grandmother, who graced her holiday tables with it for many years. I don't particularly care for canned mandarin oranges, so this year I've used clementines, peeled and sectioned, of course (three or four will be enough, plus another four or five for the juice). You can use dried ginger as my grandma did, but the more vivid stuff from a jar is nicer, I think, and mixes into dressing easier than any I could chop myself.
Yuletide Fruit Salad
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, juice reserved
1 ripe avocado
8 cups salad greens, rinsed well
2 pomegranates, seeded and rinsed well
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup orange juice, including that drained from the mandarin oranges
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Drain the mandarin oranges, and add enough juice to make 1/4 cup.
Peel and dice the avocado.
Combine the oil, juices, tarragon vinegar, ginger, and salt, and shake well to blend.
Toss the salad greens, pomegranate seeds, mandarin oranges, and avocado in a bowl, and add the dressing just before serving.
Makes 8 to 10 servings. Active work time, about 20 minutes, not counting seeding the pomegranates, which is best done leisurely and carefully, ahead of time.
Sticky Toffee Pudding is in fact a kind of cake, dense and intensely moist, and rich without being tooth-achingly sweet. The idea of dates in a cake gave a few people in my family pause, but because they are puréed, they add texture and richness without a specifically date-y flavor.
This recipe is based on a couple of different versions from the Los Angeles Times, and some blissful meals in a local pub. One of these times, I'll try it in a muffin tin, for individual portions. Give the toffee, which is really a kind of soaking syrup, plenty of time to insinuate itself into the cake.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
10 large, soft Medjool dates (about 1/2 pound)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature (divided use)
2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed (divided use)
1 1/4 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
1 cup whipping cream, plus more for serving
Cut the dates in half, remove the pits, and roughly chop them. Place them in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the baking soda with water and bring to a boil; or heat in the microwave. Pour the liquid over the dates, and allow to cool. Purée in a blender, and set aside.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter, and use it to grease a 9-inch springform pan, and place the pan on a baking sheet for ease of handling. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350° F.
Cream 1/4 cup of the butter and 1 cup of the brown sugar, in a mixer or by hand, until light and fluffy. Lightly beat the eggs, then pour them into the mixing bowl, a little at a time, until incorporated. Add the flour, mixing until combined. Stir in the date purée and vanilla extract; the batter will be runny.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing evenly. Bake until spongy, slightly firm to the touch, and nicely browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.
While the cake is baking, prepare the toffee mixture. Place the remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and, with the back of the knife, scrape out the pulp and seeds and add to the butter along with the pod. When the butter is melted, stir in 1 cup of cream and the remaining 1 cup brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook until thickened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove the vanilla bean pod.
While the cake is still warm, use a thin wooden or metal skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake. Spread the warm toffee topping slowly over the cake as evenly as possible, allowing it to be absorbed.
Serve the pudding in dessert bowls, surrounded by a generous lake of cream (warm the cream or use it cold, as you like).
Makes 1 cake, about 12 servings.