This was originally posted in 2012, which would turn out to be my last Christmas with my mother. Although we usually had some sort of seafood when I was growing up, we’d been trying to do the Feast of the Seven Fishes over the last several years. For this occasion, I took care of all the prep, so she could relax and entertain her friends. It was a very special and joyous holiday, and I’m so glad that we were able to enjoy it as a family. Although, as usual, I spent far too much time in the kitchen.
This year, I seem to be missing her terribly, even more than last year. Maybe it’s because I just got engaged and know how thrilled she would be. She loved to make sure there were lots of presents under the tree, and I know she would have gone overboard in celebrating. So to help make the season a little brighter (besides my sparkly ring), I’ll likely be spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen, where I always feel so close to her. But I still want to find some time to unwind and enjoy myself.
For Christmas Eve, we’ve decided to serve only appetizers, so there’s less fuss. And fortunately, most can be made in advance. I love to check my local market to see what’s on special when I decide what to make.
Mussels with pesto were a big hit last year. These can also be prepared ahead of time and need only a minute to plate.
I might do some mini-cups of lobster bisque (it’s OK to cheat and use a pre-made version from your favorite restaurant).
A salmon mousse, preferably one in a mold, also looks lovely. This will serve plenty but that’s fine for any unexpected guests, and it lasts a few days. Plus, it can be prepared in advance as well. The same can be said for a smoked trout or baccala spread, with crostini.
I also like to plate pieces of smoked salmon on cucumber maybe with a little creme fraiche, topped with roe. The red and green colors are quite festive too. (Maybe I’ll remember to take a photograph this year.)
Or lightly fry some calamari or scallops and serve it with marinara.
Of course, you can’t forget the clams! You can easily steam them, or if you want it fancier, do my play on clams casino and serve them on the half shell, topped with a dollop of crabmeat and gruyere. Broil till the cheese melts. (You can add a bit of bacon too unless you’re sticking to the no meat rule.)
Or splurge on some lobster, especially if you have a smaller gathering and if it’s still cheap, and you can also serve mini lobster rolls. In NYC, you can get a few deconstructed rolls from Luke’s Lobster, and make it very easy on yourself.
You could also serve fish ceviche or tuna tartar if you’re more daring. The options are endless, and you can (and should) have guests help or bring a course. Have fun with it and try to make it as easy on yourself as you can! Plus, it’s fun to sample a lot of little dishes and have accompanying drinks.
For Christmas dinner, we’re having a standing rib roast, which is delicious and requires minimal prep. Even if I don’t have to spend the entire holiday cooking, you’ll likely still find me in the kitchen. That’s where family is for me.
To drink: my infamous vodka cranberry punch which consists of large amounts of vodka, prosecco, white cranberry juice, some seltzer and a dollop of blood orange sorbet. If you taste the alcohol, adjust. If you don’t taste the alcohol, adjust. Just watch out because this punch truly packs a punch. Or serve some sparkling wine with a few pomegranate seeds thrown in for color. It’s also a great time for a Negroni- nothing says festive like Campari! And there should always be plenty of Spiked Egg Nog on hand.