Catch them off guard with 5-course dinner — Christmas Dinner Series (part 1 of 3)

Yes, it’s a little bit dated now, but I’ve been planning to share the menu and some of the recipes from Christmas dinner; I’ve decided to do so in a 3-part series. This is part 1.

Let’s start with the menu. TM and I were entertaining my father, my sister and her family (including my two nephews) and I wanted a menu that was somewhat “make ahead” so that I didn’t have to put a large hunk of meat into the oven at 5 AM on Christmas Day. We wanted to eat Noon, not late afternoon. I also wanted to serve my family something a  little different than what they might have every day.

Here’s the menu TM and I decided on:

  • Cucumber salad
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Corn chowder
  • Green beans
  • Hasselback potatoes
  • Lobster tails with drawn butter
  • Peppermint cheesecake

We served the meal in courses, starting off with the cucumber salad and shrimp cocktail, followed by the corn chowder as a soup course. We even cleared the plates between each course. I have served a meal in courses before with my family and it kind of “catches them off guard” (which I admit kind of makes me giggle). I think it’s good for my nephews to have some dining “experiences.”

The appetizer, salad and soup course were all pretty successful with this group. My youngest nephew who is 11 wasn’t that impressed with the corn chowder and I think my brother-in-law ate the same nephew’s shrimp but all-in-all, it seemed that everyone else enjoyed these first three courses.

I’m not including a recipe for the Shrimp Cocktail. I just picked up some larger shrimp and some bottled cocktail sauce (probably not “real food” and maybe a good topic for “What’s in that Wednesday?). The only unique thing about this course was that I served them in mini dessert bowls, putting the cocktail sauce in the bottom and hanging 4-5 shrimp around the edges. Very festive! (too bad I didn’t get a picture)

Cucumber salad

  • 2 English cucumbers, thinly sliced (I partially peeled them by leaving strips, mainly for color in the salad)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (substitute honey for a “real food” recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill (use fresh if you have it)

In a colander, toss the cucumber and onion with the salt and let it sit and drain for 20 minutes. Press the liquid out of the vegetables and rinse well with cold water. In another bowl, combine the vinegar and sugar and stir well. Add the cucumber mixture and toss to coat. Stir in the dill.

 Corn chowder

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 1 small celery stalk, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups white corn kernels,      fresh or frozen (I used frozen)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt 1 stick of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook until the roux is lightly browned; set aside to cool to room temperature. (It’s winter in ND so I was able to set the pan outside for a few minutes and it was quickly cooled)

Meanwhile, combine the corn and chicken stock in another saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the boiling stock with the corn (a little at a time) into the saucepan with the roux, whisking briskly so it doesn’t lump. Return the skillet to the heat and bring to a boil. The mixture should become very thick.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the half-and-half; stir it into the thick corn mixture. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste. Just before serving, cut the remaining stick of butter into large chunks. Add it to enrich the soup, stirring until the butter melts. Makes 8 to 10 servings

(Note: This is not an original recipe. I found it on the Internet somewhere but I am not able to find it back so my apologies to the author.)