Wednesday, December 15, 2010

40th year of Christmas Dinners

40 years!! We have been doing Christmas dinners for that long..hard to believe. I think the first dinner was when we were Juniors in high school. We had it at Mare's parents house. I think she made lasagna that she served in individual Styrofoam McDonalds hamburger boxes and I'm not sure what else but the other thing I remember was a salad or desert of orange jello in half of a hollowed out orange. We thought these two presentations were so cool and that Mare was so creative. Boy, have we come a long way. I think in those days there may have been more of us than our five now. Though we all got together and became best friend in high school several of us have known each other since elementary school..long long time. Through college, marriage, kids our group has dwindled down to our core five. We have been together through all phases of our lives good and bad. Every year with out fail we have had our Christmas dinners, granted sometimes they were not always in December. We've had them as late as in February, March, July or when ever we finally got our schedule together. I don't think we've ever missed a Christmas dinner in all our years. I remember the year it was my turn for dinner, my dad passed away right after Thanksgiving so one of the other girls took my place and did dinner in my place. We take turns every year with one of us having dinner. The hostess has to make the dinner but the others get to pick the menu. The rule is everything has to be home take out or packaged food.
This year since it was our 40th they wanted something fancy, well, they always want something fancy. The menu suggestions were barbecued ribs and baked brie as appetizers, a simple green salad, Beef Wellington, Fettuccine Alfredo, brocollini, and some sort of dessert. Now it was up to me to bring this menu to the table. I finalized the menu and the end result was,
appetizers: barbecued ribs, Asian Sloppy Joe Sliders, Hot Garlic Clam Dip (recipe to follow).
mixed greens with D'Anjou pear, crumbled Danish blue cheese and toasted almonds with D'Anjou pear vinaigrette.

Entree: Beef Wellington, Brocollini, Roasted Brussel sprouts with prosciutto and onions, and Smashed Potatoes and Gnudi with sage,corn and almond bacon picada

Dessert: Chocolate Caramel tart (from Vanilla Garlic )and a Raspberry trifle.

Luckily this was a pretty easy menu since a lot of the dishes could at least be started or made a day or two in advance. As intimidating as Beef Wellington sounds it's actually a fairly easy dish to make. Normally it is made as a single roast but since everyone had different preferences in doneness, I find it easier to make individual ones. Most of the Wellington can be done a day before so this made things a little easier. Actually the cooking is the easy part for me. Decorating the table, buying the favors etc is where I stress. I'm not a decorator, that's Sue's department. She can set and decorate the most gorgeous table and always has the cutest favors for us. As does Chris and the rest of the girls. Me, I don't do decorating well.. but I think my table looked pretty good
The ribs were easy, except for the fact it was raining and I was in and out of the rain tending to the ribs. The plus of using the barbecue was that I heated my Garlic clam dip in there also so that freed up oven space for me. The Garlic clam dip was a recipe I learned from one of my cooking classes at the Co-op, one of Gigi's easy delicious recipes. The Asian Sliders was just the left over Asian Sloppy Joe mix from dinner the night before (recipe is on the blog). I thought that was a pretty heavy appetizer menu but the girls powered through it, especially the ribs. They cleaned those out! I'd have to say the appetizers went over very well.
The salad was just something I came up with on the fly. They wanted a salad with a light dressing. I found a bottle of D'Anjou Pear vinegar in my cupboard and thought I'd make a vinaigrette of it then thought well, I might as well add D'Anjou pear to the greens and blue cheese goes well with pears as would toasted sliced almonds... voila! Not original by any means but it turned out very well.
As for the Beef Wellington, the sauce was able to be made the day before and the beef was able to be seared and stuffed the day before and wrapped in puff pastry earlier in the day. I just had to stick it in the oven when the time came. The Gnudi(also on a previous blog) also could be made 2-3 days in advance, cooked and stored in the refrigerator. The picada is just throwing all the ingredients together and then adding the cooked gnudi.
The deserts all were also done the day before so everything was pretty much done on the day party. The appetizer table

D'Anjou pear salad with D'Anjou pear vinaigrette
The side dishes

Individual Beef Wellingtons
Chocolate Caramel Tart and Raspberry Trifle
We all ate too much as always had a lot of laughs and exchanged our gifts. I got a Himalayan Salt plate which I am dying to try.
40 years..lots of great memories and a lot more to come. It is going to be my turn when our 50th comes stay tuned.

1 stick butter, softened
2 cans(61/2 oz) minced clams and 1/2 of the juice
1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C parmesan cheese
10 cloves roasted garlic(more or less to taste) chopped
1/2 C onion finely minced
4Tbsp mayonnaise
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash tabasco
1 sour dough round
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix all the ingredients together
Cut the top off the sour dough round, remove 3/4 of the inside of the bread (reserve for dipping)
fill the bread with the clam mixture and bake for 20-30 minutes until hot.
Allow to cool a bit as it thickens up as it cools.
Serve with bread or crackers.

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