Christmas Dinner 2006
We are back from our Christmas visit to my family in Colorado! We had minimal travel issues, which was lucky given the blizzards bookending Christmas in the Front Range (one last week and one today and tomorrow). It was so nice spending time with my family, and our Christmas dinner was very well-received!
First, some pictures of snow (Patrick took the second and third pictures on his walk down by the river). Snow is so nice when you only have to see it a few days out of the year.
On Christmas Eve, we bought all of our groceries, including prime rib, oxtails, bacon and breakfast sausage from Choice City Butcher, our favorite Fort Collins butcher shop. They specialize in natural meat--no hormones, grass-fed and grain-finished, etc. Luckily it was only snowing a little, and the roads were passable. I was worried we wouldn't be able to find everything we needed because of the blizzard a few days prior, but Safeway came through. The only thing I couldn't find was celery root (intended for the mashed potatoes), which wasn't a huge surprise.
I did some prep work in the afternoon (made dessert, boiled the brussels sprouts, and partially roasted the sweet potatoes) so that I could relax on Christmas morning. That evening we watched It's a Wonderful Life, which is a favorite of mine.
On Christmas morning, my mom and Alan made our traditional breakfast (coffee cake, sausage, grapefruit, eggs made to order, and orange juice). Delicious, as usual. Then we opened presents and relaxed. Dinner required some advance preparation, so I started making it around 1pm. I had put together a dinner preparation timeline a few days earlier, which made things easier.
Patrick was a big help, especially with the prime rib, and we got dinner on the table right around 6pm, as planned. It got a little stressful in the last half hour, trying to get everything on the table at the same time, but overall it went well, and I was able to enjoy myself. There were 8 of us there for dinner, which worked out just right, as most of the dishes were supposed to serve 8 or 10. Here's what we ate:
Prime Rib Roast with Jus: Recipe from The New Best Recipe. This was very tender with a nice crust on the outside. The jus was yummy--very savory and beefy. Totally worth buying oxtail for it (Oxtails contribute fat and collagen to the gravy, as the slow-and-low prime rib cooking technique doesn't yield much jus on its own. The butcher wasn't sure that he'd be able to get oxtails because of mad cow disease issues, but he came through for me. When they brought it out, it hadn't been cut up at all and was quite imposing and tail-like. Cows are big! After they'd cut it into 3" pieces, it was much more manageable). I think the prime rib itself was a little lacking in flavor, but the jus helped with that. I'm not sure if I'll make prime rib again or try something else for our next special occasion meal.
Individual Yorkshire Puddings: Recipe from The New Best Recipe. These were Patrick's favorite part of the meal, and they were at the top of my list as well. I made them in muffin tins, as recommended in the recipe, and they turned out crusty on the outside and tender and eggy on the inside. Just right! I should make popovers to go with our meals more often.
Mashed Potatoes with Mascarpone: Considering the amount of unhealthy dairy products in these, they should have been awesome. They were perfectly good mashed potatoes (especially with some jus on top), but not amazing. Next time I'll try a recipe with sour cream and/or cream cheese in it. I like my mashed potatoes a little tangy.
Roasted Sweet Potato Spears with Bacon Vinaigrette: These were my favorite part of the meal. I used applewood-smoked bacon from Choice City Butcher, which I think made the dish. It was sweet, smoky and delicious. I'll definitely add this to my recipe binder.
Baby Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Pecans: These were pretty good brussels sprouts, but not amazing. I'm still searching for the perfect brussels sprouts recipe. I want a recipe that gives sprouts with roasty caramelized exteriors and tender interiors. And it should involve bacon (though two bacon-based sides might have been a bit much at Christmas).
Accompaniments: black olives, sparkling apple cider, red wine
Gingerbread with Apple-Persimmon Vanilla Bean Compote: I was worried the gingerbread might have issues because of the increased altitude, but it turned out fine. I used blackstrap molasses instead of mild molasses, because that's what we had on hand, and it still tasted really good. The persimmons seemed to take on the apple flavor instead of maintaining their own personalities, but they added a nice color to the compote. I sure do like gingerbread!
The meal was a success! I'm glad everything turned out so well.
The next day, we subsisted entirely on leftovers. We had gingerbread, compote, and coffee cake for breakfast and prime rib sandwiches for lunch: prime rib, caramelized onions, muenster cheese, mayo and jus on no-knead bread (which handled the high altitude just fine). I think they would've been even better if I'd added a little horseradish to the mayo and used Swiss cheese instead of muenster, but they were still quite good.
Dinner also consisted of leftovers, including pancakes made from leftover mashed potatoes (there were a lot) and some green onions. Not bad!
It was a good visit. We ate lots of fudge and read magazines and lazed about when we weren't in the kitchen. Patrick got to throw a snowball at me when I wasn't looking, which he finds exceedingly entertaining. I retaliated, accidentally getting snow down the back of his jacket, which is never pleasant. I need to work on my aim!
Now we're back home in California, where it's pretty windy. I have the urge to make something or organize our apartment, but sitting on the couch reading books sounds awfully nice too.