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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Brunch and Dinner

Holiday traditions need to be creative and flexible when “combined families” are involved. For the past few years a brunch on Thanksgiving and one at Christmas includes all the daughters that are “home,” and now husbands and children. The dinner later in the evening becomes more intimate and formal for a smaller number.

This year we were blessed that all three daughters, husbands and four grandchildren were present for brunch. And an extra bonus was my mother was here. She usually travels with a sister to the sunny south for the holiday so this was the first year in several that she shared our table. My husband’s mother was to attend but unfortunately was hospitalized for a few days (glad to report, she is home and doing fine!) For dinner it was five adults and two toddlers. Even when it is only family I continue to write up a menu card and keep them. It is fun to look at what was served from year to year and who was present.

Even though the card highlighted a festive turkey - there was none at our table. Turkey is not a favorite of mine nor my husband’s and because a tenderloin roast has been a Christmas tradition for me and my daughter for many years (and I only cook and eat beef once a year) my spouse suggested a few years ago that when we host Thanksgiving dinner we should do the beef . But, we always include mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Preparation for the day’s menu begins several days ahead. Shopping, timetables, and making what I can ahead allows time for creating the set up and presentation which I enjoy as much as the cooking.

This year’s menu included many of my standard favorites but also some new ones.

- Miniature Bloody Mary’s. I used Zing Zang mix and Absolute Vodka. Celery sticks and lime slices were added. The tulip mini glasses were a hit!
- Vevue Cliquot Champagne. My favorite and one must please the cook!
- Baked Brie with Raspberry Pepper Preserves and Peach Pepper Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm (
- Wild Mushroom Soup*
- Smoked Salmon Toasts*. These were adapted from a recipe in the November issue of F&W
- Onion Soufflé* – Another dish adapted from a recipe in the November issue of F&W
- A variety of cheeses, crackers and bread
- Olives, Grapes, Beer, Apple Juice
Wine: HK Generations Pinot Noir, Sonoma Cutrer
- and of course chicken nuggets and pizza bagel bites for the toddlers

*Wild Mushroom Soup. I originally made this using a recipe in the Silver Palette Cookbook but over the years have made it my own by adding various kinds of fresh and dried mushrooms, and wines. This year I sautéed leeks, shallots and garlic in evoo and set aside. The dried mushrooms included morels, porcini, shitake and chantrelles. The fresh mushrooms were crimini, button and shitake. These are sautéed in batches in butter and evoo. As they softened I added Madeira, beef demi glace and a small amount of chicken broth and beef broth and let each batch reduce. I season with fresh ground pepper, fresh thyme and sage. I then put all in the food processor. I make this one or two days ahead of when it is to be served. On the morning of the brunch I add chicken broth, beef broth and more Madeira and cook on low for at least two hours. The consistency of the soup is creamy, but with no cream. It has been a favorite of family members, (old and new) for several years.

*Smoked Salmon Toasts. The F&W recipe used butter, but I chose to stick to cream cheese. I mixed the cc with honey Dijon and grainy Dijon. The small pumpernickel bread slices were browned under the broiler. When cooled each slice was spread with the cc/mustard mixture, topped with smoked salmon and a couple of capers.

*Onion Soufflé. The author of this recipe described it as a fixture at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals when she was growing up in the south. I can say without a doubt that it will become a fixture on my table at holiday time. It was a enjoyed at brunch and was also served at dinner (and again the next day).

You can find the recipe in the November issue or at FOODANDWINE.COM, but it includes sweet onions – I sautéed 2 ½ ponds in butter. In another bowl I mixed flour and baking powder, 4 eggs beaten with heavy cream and ½ to ¾ cup of grated parmesan cheese and then folded in the onions. I baked it in a casserole dish. F&W also suggested small gratin dishes. The casserole baked for about 45 minutes in a 350 oven. SUPERB!

And now for Dinner
Although I have no photos of the dinner, I assure you that unlike the "Meat Miracle on 2nd St", posted in December 2011, I did remember to pick up the meat and prepare the following in a timely manner for an early evening dinner.

Mushroom Soup - The "crowd" begged for more.
Roast Tenderloin Roast with Shallot Port Sauce
Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans with Almonds
Yorkshire Pudding and the Onion Soufflé
Wine: Silver Oak Cabernet and Clos Pegase Cabernet
Pumpkin Pie (just in case you thought I had a “baking moment”… was made by my mom)

Tenderloin Roast. Each time I make this I insert slivers of garlic in the meat and then pat it with ground black pepper and ground thyme. I follow cooking instructions for rare to medium rare.

Shallot Port Sauce. Adapting a recipe I found on the internet, I sautéed shallots, fresh rosemary and thyme in butter and added cognac, port and beef broth.

A wonderful and blessed day. Hopefully these items give you ideas for your upcoming Holiday entertaining or Thanksgiving 2013.

Second Day idea – Having enough tenderloin left over for the meat lovers I served it as part of the meal the following evening. Not wanting to recook the tenderloin, I set it out to take the chill off. I reduced the mushroom soup to a sauce like consistency. The very hot mushroom sauce was poured over the sliced tenderloin. All report that it was very good.

Happy Holidays and may 2013 be a great year!


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