Yep...Mr. Luz and I cooked our very first Christmas dinner this weekend. I'm no Julia, we were able to dig into our Favorite Flavors Repository and come up with a satisfying and kind-of-almost-healthy-ish meal to share with friends by the glow of the Christmas tree.
And for once, I didn't have even the tiniest of meltdowns. Mr. Luz and I worked together and managed to feed 12 people out of a kitchen the size of a refrigerator box without any injuries, tears, or low-blood sugar freak outs. And as everyone squeezed into our living room, and the volume got louder and smiles got brighter throughout the evening, I felt blessed-like the richest woman in the world. I'm really proud of our beautiful meal. And Mr. Luz, thanks for being my calm, dedicated co-Chef this Christmas. I love you.
Christmas Dinner Menu for 12 (recipes below):
Baked Acorn Squash with Butter and Cinnamon
Smoked Oyster New Orleans Style Stuffing
The Best Apple Pie In The World (recipe pending in future post)
Smoked Turkey Recipe: See this link to a previous post
Baked Acorn Squash with Butter and Brown Sugar Recipe:
This recipe is elegant, simple, and traditional. If you don't want to serve the squash pieces individually, simply halve the squash, and after baking spoon out the squash and mash it to a puree for serving.
3-4 large Acorn Squash, seeds and strings removed
3 Tbs. butter
6 Tbs. brown sugar
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Quarter the squash, and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side down. Add a few Tbs. of water to the baking sheet to steam squash and keep skins from burning.
Spoon pieces of butter and brown sugar into the concave part of the squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 min. to an hour, until the squash is soft all the way through and browned a bit on top. Serve.
Gremolata Green beans Recipe:
This dish serves as the perfect bright, garlicky foil to a traditional rich, sweet holiday menu and it's so versatile. Make it ahead of time and serve it at room temperature. These green beans are so tasty, we eat them like dessert...a few bites at a time, all day long. We acquired the recipe after a friend brought them to Thanksgiving this year, so I can't take credit, but they were too good not to pass along.
2 pounds green beans
4 Tbs. minced garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 8 lemons (yellow part only)
2 bunches Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
Blanch the green beans in a pot of boiling salted water for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes; drain and plunge into ice water. Drain well. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Saute the garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat for 2 minutes or just until the garlic turns white. Do not let it brown. Pour over the beans and toss to combine.
Combine the lemon zest, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the beans, and toss. Add the lemon juice, toss again, and taste. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and more lemon juice, to taste.
NOTE: Mr. Luz likes to throw the topping ingredients, raw garlic, cheese and all, into the food processer and then toss the blanched greenbeans, olive oil, lemon juice, and food processed topping all together before serving. To him, flash cooking the garlic takes some of the fun out of the dish, and electronics are more fun than chopping.
Smoked Oyster French Bread Stuffing
I love a sweet, salty, umami-tasting oyster with just about everything, but especially when it adds unexpected elegance and subtlety to a holiday stuffing/dressing. I've been eating this stuff for breakfast since Saturday.
2 large loaves stale French bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups fresh oysters in their own liquor
1 1/2 cups smoked oysters, rinsed and coarse chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. bacon grease
1 cup butter
2 Tbs. of your favorite fresh savory herb(s), chopped (thyme, sage, rosemary)
Salt and red pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
Dry the bread cubes on a baking sheet all day, or in a 200 degree oven, until crispy.
Melt 1/2 cup butter and bacon grease over medium heat in a large pan. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery and saute until translucent. Add the garlic, green onion, and parsley and saute 2 more minutes.
Combine the sauteed vegetables, bread cubes, smoked and fresh oysters, with their liquor, savory herbs, salt and red pepper and chicken stock in a large bowl and mix well. Spoon the dressing into a baking dish. Dot with the remaining 1/2 cup butter. Bake at 350 until brown and bubbly--approximately 35-45 minutes.