What to Eat for Christmas Dinner, Part 1

Well, not this, obviously.

It used to be that Christmas dinner loomed over the whole month of December. I had ideas. Big ones. Paradigm shattering ideas about Bouillabaise or Paella or maybe even grilled quails with wild mushroom risotto.  Or, conversely, doing the whole traditional Roast-Beef-with-all-the-Trimmings, which means Yorkshire Pudding, three kinds of vegetables, mashed potatoes, mince pie and flaming plum pudding.  Or what about a full blown Swedish dinner with fifteen different kinds of meat, including a whole Swedish ham and meatballs, Jansson’s Temptation, red cabbage and apples, potatoes and several kinds of cookies and candies – all made at home? Too much!

Planning a huge Christmas dinner with the crummy Seattle weather, the slog of Christmas shopping, and the kids bumping around the house,  bored, with school being out and all, it is a bit much. Never fear. There is a better way. My aunt, the “Thanksgiving Queen”, has Christmas dinner all locked up. I have modified her method to suit my schedule and changed the menu to include some of my husband’s Swedish traditions. (Christmas is a great time to explore your family heritage!)

My Christmas Dinner Menu 2012

Loj rom on hot buttered toast with lemon*


French dip sandwiches made with roast beef tenderloin au jus with caramelized onions and horseradish cream

Shaved fennel, pink lady apple, white cheddar and toasted hazelnut salad with cider vinegar dressing

Pinot Noir – probably from our stash of Williams Selyem

Flaming plum pudding with hard sauce

*what is loj rom? It is a mild Swedish caviar, pale champagne in color  – considered by most Swedes (and me!) to be very festive and fancy. My father-in-law very kindly brings it to us, packed in ice, whenever he comes to visit.

The difference between my aunt’s Christmas Day dinner and mine, is that she makes her French dips from leftover prime rib. On Christmas Eve, she serves standing rib roast to our whole extended family –  a massive haunch of beef. Since I am not serving twenty four people the night before Christmas Day, I have no leftover prime rib to make my sandwiches. And yet sandwiches make sense since who wants to eat an elaborate meal the day after another very elaborate meal?! On Christmas Eve you’ll find me “making leftovers” out of a 4 pound tenderloin of beef! It is a little absurd to do this with such a luxurious cut of meat and yet this way I can play with my kids on Christmas Day instead of spending all day in the kitchen doing something complicated. Beef tenderloin and fancy condiments turn what could be a sandwich from a lunch counter into a meal that feels very celebratory.

We have to backtrack a little. Early in December (I did this yesterday) I buy 6 pounds of veal bones (hence the photo above), and roast them with carrots and onions in a hot oven. When they are the rich brown of a horse chestnut, I pull them from the oven and simmer them very slowly in a large soup pot for several hours. Then I cool, bag and freeze the broth. This deeply brown elixir will become the jus for Christmas day. Making the jus, the caramelized onions and the dessert in advance, will allow you to flop around in the living room with the toys, chocolates and piles of wrapping paper and maybe even squeeze in a little nap on the couch with “I’m Dreaming of White Christmas” playing quietly in the background. Hopefully your children will be entertaining themselves at this point and you won’t be refereeing any dumb arguments. Staying up after midnight  to fill the Christmas stockings and make sure Santa gets his cookies and port, is very exhausting after all.

Beef or Veal Stock

This recipe makes far more than you’ll need but you’ll thank me when you have quarts and quarts of frozen stock to make soup with after Christmas

  • 6 lb. beef or veal bones, have your butcher saw them into 3″ pieces (veal bones are very good because they have a lot of cartilage so the broth becomes thick and velvety because of it
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into big chunks
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered
  • a few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few parsley sprigs
  • 1 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 450°F.
  2. Roast the bones on a large rimmed baking sheet until just beginning to brown. This should take 20 minutes.
  3. Add carrots and onions (you can leave the skins on for color). Continue to roast until the bones and vegetables are deeply brown, perhaps 30 to 45 minutes more.
  4. Leaving any clear yellowish fat behind, move the roasted bones and vegetables to a stockpot.
  5. Add the parsley and thyme, which you should tie together, the bay leaf, peppercorns, tomato paste, and 5 to 7 quarts cold water (enough to cover the bones and vegetables by a couple of inches) to the pot.
  6. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to medium low or low. Simmer uncovered, skimming the scum that collects on the surface occasionally with a shallow spoon.
  7. When the broth is flavorful and reduced enough to just barely cover the bones and vegetables – it’s done. Mine took about 5 hours.
  8. To quickly cool the broth so you can freeze it, line a colander with paper towels or cheesecloth.
  9. Using a ladle, pour the broth through the colander into a very large bowl or another stock pot.
  10. Fill an ice chest with all the ice from your freezer. I often buy a couple of bags of ice just for this purpose.
  11. Put a lid on the stock, and carefully submerge the pot in the cooler so that the ice comes up almost to the top of the pot.
  12. Close the cooler and go to bed. In the morning the stock will be so cold it is almost slushy and the fat will have congealed on the top.
  13. Remove the fat and throw it out.
  14. Divide the stock into two 3 cup bags and as many  8 cup bags as you can fill (I got three) and put it in the freezer. The two 3 cup bags are for Christmas Day and the rest is for any soup you want to make later this winter.
So that’s the first part done. A few days before Christmas, you’ll need to caramelize some onions and a few other things. We’ll get to that in a few days. For now, you’re done.


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