I love Christmas and Christmas dinner is my favorite part. It’s just such an excellent occasion to come together towards the end of the year, eat good food, drink fine wine and celebrate. After we moved together into our apartment here in Zurich, the boyfriend and I decided to celebrate Christmas at our home. Just as last year we are expecting some guests and are amidst our Christmas preparations.
In the past years, we were quite traditional concerning the food we served. There was duck breast with red cabbage and bread dumplings and mousse au chocolate for dessert. As an appetizer, we commemorated the Christmas celebrations of our respective grandparents by serving some prawn cocktail. All this is on our list, for this year, too.
But we might want to mix things up a little bit. So the past weekend I have been hitting the cookbooks, Pinterest and food blogs for inspiration. I can imagine that some of you might still be researching the perfect Christmas dinner, I thought I’d share some of my favorite ideas below.
Greet Your Guests With an Aperitif
I always love to welcome my guest with a decent cocktail to get things going. Usually, this would be a Negroni or an Americano for those who prefer a lighter drink. But a Christmas Dinner calls for something else.
The cardamom rose gin tonic sounds like an excellent choice for the holidays, and I am somewhat curious what Cardamon will do to a drink.
The balsam gin sparkler also sounds great; however, I very much doubt that I might find twigs of the balsam fir that are needed for this drink, somewhere in Switzerland. But apparently, you can make syrup out of any fir needles. So maybe it is worth giving this a try.
If blood oranges appear in the shops before Christmas Eve, this drink is also on my list for drinks I might serve: Blood orange, gin, and elderflower – it just sounds delicious.
And then there is Champagne! So, if all fails, it is always a great backup plan to have a bottle of Champagne in the fridge. If you mix things up a little, throw in a cube of Demerara sugar and two dashes of Angostura Bitters, and you have one of my favorite drinks, the Champagne Cocktail.
It’s always nice to serve something to nibble on immediately after your guests arrive or to kick-off your celebrations. Also, offering a little bit of food alongside the aperitif will save your guests from getting drunk too soon. But: be careful that the taste of your appetizer fits the drinks you plan on serving!
Prawn Cocktail with a Dash of Gin
As I have mentioned in the intro, last year we served prawn cocktail as an appetizer, and I’d probably do it again. To make it a bit more special try seasoning the cocktail sauce with a few drops of a gin with botanicals, like The Organic Distillery’s Ginn.
A Simple Cheese & Charcuterie Plate
If you go with a flavourful aperitif, I suggest you keep it simple and present your guests with a small but decent selection of cheese and charcuterie, some olives and some crackers.
If you go with Champagne, salmon will always compliment it well. I love simple canapés with salmon and a dollop of horseradish cream, as well as a squeeze of fresh lemon, on top. If you can find fresh horseradish, you should try making horseradish cream, like the one used in this recipe for smoked salmon latkes!
The First Course
I usually have a hard time coming up with a first course. On the one hand, the appetizer may already have filled your guests. On the other hand, I am still afraid the first course I pick may not complement the main course.
Hearty Beef Broth
My all-time favorite first course on Christmas is the soup my mum used to make on the first day of Christmas. She always used the broth from the Fondue Chinoise that we had the night before to create a simple beef soup with some finely chopped carrots and celeriac. But it turns out to be the most delicious soup in the world.
Light Winter Salad
Then there is always salad. Some lamb’s salad with roasted walnuts and goats cheese might be nice. This winter salad by Half Baked Harvest, sounds delicious, too.
The Star of Your Christmas Dinner: The Main Course
Traditional main courses include turkey, roast or duck and I have to admit that despite my research I am still convinced that these are the best options for your main course. I considered chicken, but find it a little bit, too every day to serve it on Christmas Eve. Bad news, for you vegetarians out there, but I did not find any vegetarian main course that would make my final list. But maybe you want to check out what the people over at Krautkopf are up to; they always have the most excellent ideas when it comes to vegetarian food.
Duck with Braised Red Cabbage and Bread Dumplings
As I mentioned before, in the last two years we enjoyed some great duck with some orange and red wine sauce. We winged the recipes for this dish, but this recipe for duck breast à l’orange comes quite close. As there is still some port wine in our fridge this year, we are considering making this duck breast with port reduction by Martha Steward. If we manage to find plums, we might go for this duck breast with port wine plum sauce. As for sides, we will opt for the classic combination of braised red cabbage and Semmelknödel – bread dumplings.
Roast Beef with Vegetables from the Oven
Another option – and we will probably make that on Christmas Day – is roast beef alongside some oven-roasted vegetables, like Jamie Oliver’s Hasselback potatoes and these maple dijon roasted carrots. Oh and these Champagne roasted parsnips also sound great, but I wonder if they will still fit in the oven with the roast, potatoes, and carrots … oh, my.
To be honest, no one will probably need and more food after the first and the main course, but don’t skip on the dessert for your Christmas Dinner. Instead, I suggest you allow for a little bit of time to pass between the main course and the desert, so everyone can relax a little bit before digging into something blissfully sweet.
Let Them Eat Cake!
This lemon tart did make our shortlist, and I need to make it one day, but looking at the ambitious main course, I decided to go with a more simple dessert. Like this chocolate fudge cake by Ottolenghi.
Then there will be stuffed apples, a staple for cold winter days. All you need are some apples, preferably Boskoop. Remove the apple core and stuff it with marzipan, almond slivers, ground cinnamon, and cardamom. Add a good amount of butter, some more ground cinnamon and almond slivers on top and put it into the oven until the apples are soft and baked through. It is not only super delicious but will fill your apartment with one of the best smells in the world.
Christmas Dinner Decoration
While I firmly believe that the food should be the main attraction on any dinner table, Christmas Dinner is a chance to run riot with decorations. Usually, I pick throw some branches of fir, some miniature Christmas ornaments and lots of gold on the table. But I am not sure what might happen this year. I found so many great ideas. Generally, I am leaning towards lots of fresh greens this year. These are two ideas I like:
For example, eucalyptus wreaths that I found on Stephanini’s blog. They look super easy to make, all you need is some eucalyptus twigs. Just take a piece, tie the ends together, done! While eucalyptus might not be the first green that pops to mind when you think about Christmas, I this is a great idea. Alternatively, you could use rosemary twigs to create those little wreaths.
Twigs in miniature vases
These twigs in small, delicate vases look beautiful as well; I could imagine doing something similar with fir or other wintery branches, like holly.