The H.o.P. usually celebrates the holidays pretty casually. Some meat, potatoes, greens, and of course, a fruit tart. Things are changing as the years go by. Not only is our family growing, but we are all growing up and somehow meat, potatoes, and a salad just doesn’t satisfy our palates these days. In addition, we had some new guests this year: Triple T’s brother, Quadruple T (Terror from Toronto and Taiwan Too), and Running Man’s whole family. Smooth Obturator and Triple T finally finished remodeling their pimp pad, including a pretty awesome kitchen. So it’s was only natural that we would eventually take all our culinary experiences and apply them for a new take on a family tradition of Christmas dinner.
Smooth Obturator was proudly showing off his new wine fridge. He broke out a bottle of Silver Oak for us to enjoy with the evenings meal. I’m really learning to appreciate good wine these days.
Appetizers black olives, smoked gouda cheese spread, wasabi cashews, multigrain crackers
I was too busy cooking to really enjoy these light appetizers, but the wasabi cashews are my new favorite snack.
Prosciutto di Parma apple arugula salad, lemon vinaigrette
I took inspiration from a dish we had at Angelini Osteria when creating this dish. I really love prosciutto, so much so, I could eat it plain. But we decided to dress this one up a bit with an interesting combination of arugula and apple. The store only had wild arugula so it really had quite a bite to it, but the apples provided the much needed contrast. I think it was a lovely pairing with the salty umami prosciutto.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup smoked bacon
Triple T made a lovely soup, courtesy of Ina Garten. We all found it maybe just a tad too sweet, so she added some smoky salty bacon topping. It was the a nice addition to achieve that perfect balance of salt and sweet.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Triple T again found inspiration from Ina Garten for these little roasted bundles of deliciousness. The H.o.P. is starting to really embrace these, traditionally shunned, veggies. We decided that next time, we would cut the sprouts in half to maximize the roasted surface area.
Now onto the main course! We planned for a surf ‘n turf theme. Instead of the normal and very boring steaks that we’re used to cooking up, I suggested a braised short rib that I’ve made a few times before and turns out really well. Smooth Obturator grilled up some delicious shrimp. As a complement to the meat, we opted for some more nontraditional sides.
Spinach & Fennel Salad horseradish lemon vinaigrette
Grilled Polenta Cake
A salad at Restaurant Zoe in Seattle provided the inspiration for the salad. I’ve never bought nor prepared fennel before. I actually had to google how to cut it up. I did a pretty bad job, but it’s a good thing I bought two! The first time around I cut off too much of the actual bulb while trying to remove the fronds. As a result, I had some pretty unattractive cuts. And actually, raw fennel has a strong anise flavor, which I actually don’t like. When it’s dressed up, all you taste is light refreshing crunchiness. I never used horseradish before. I grated it up and combined it with some high quality olive oil and lemon juice. Overall, I thought it was a simple, yet tasty approach to salad.
Plating on the line!
Bistro-Style Short Ribs & Grilled Shrimp
I think everyone was happy with the meal. The beef was braised to fall of the bone tenderness. The shrimp was grilled to smoky deliciousness. All the sides were nice compliments.
Panna Cotta fresh berries
Triple T made a simple and creamy dessert. They were beautifully presented in martini glasses and topped with vibrantly colored berries. It was a simple way to end a successful meal.
Christmas dinner this year was a great success. We really went all out from presentation to new styles of food and cooking. It was a whole lot of work and we probably spent more time cooking, serving, and cleaning than actually sitting and eating. I certainly had a lot of fun though. Hosting cool dinner parties is something I would love to be able to do, successfully and comfortably. One day when I have my own kitchen with my own cool dinnerware, I shall invite my family and friends over to enjoy some good food and good wine.
**SLR quality photos courtesy of Running Man**