Xmas dinner

The hardest part about a dinner party is figuring out the menu. Every year we have the entire side of my husband’s family over for Xmas dinner, exchanging gifts etc. It is really nice. We have been doing this pre-Xmas because we have been going away once school ends for the semester which is usually before xmas. So, we had our xmas dinner last night.

I hate to change the meal year after year because it is sort of like Thanksgiving, everybody is expecting the same thing. This year, I went out on a limb and changed a few things but everyone seemed to be ok with it.

We had a prime rib of beef. It is a once a year thing. The key to cooking this is having the butcher cut off the beef and retie it back on to the ribs. It cooks easier and is much easier to cut in the end. Put the rib sides down and the fat side up. I cooked the beef at 450 for 1/2 hour and then turned it down to 350 for the rest of the time. It is basically 12 minutes to a pound but changes based on the size. The most important utensil here is a good meat thermometer. The meat should register about 130 degrees in the oven for rare/medium rare when done. The internal temperature will rise about 10 degrees when you take it out of the oven which would make it 135/140 which is where you ultimately want the meat. I like the meat to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing.

One of our side dishes was a potato gratin. Nice and fattening. Sliced a few pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes in the cuisinart (why bother doing this by hand?). Layered them in a dutch oven type dish (Le Crueset). Took 3 cups of half and half, teaspoon of salt, 1/2 t. nutmeg and some freshly ground pepper into a sauce pot and brought to a slow boil for about 5 minutes. Poured over the potatoes and then sprinkled about 1 cup of grated gruyere cheese over the top. Baked for about 45 minutes at 350, or until the cheese was melted and the liquid was absorbed. I made this in the early afternoon. When the gratin came to room temp, I poured the extra liquid out because it did not entirely absorb. No big deal but the potatoes were definitely done and the cheese was browned. Then, I put it back in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes or so to reheat for dins. This serves about 8 people.

The veggies were green beans. I blanched them early in the afternoon too. I also took some shallots and through them into hot vegetables oil and fried them until crisp, set aside. Then, when the beef was done and sitting out for 10 minutes before cutting, I put the beans together. I took about 1 T of butter, melted it into a large saute pan. Through in the green beans, heated them thoroughly and then through in about 1/2 cup of slivered almonds. Put in a serving dish and through the shallots over the top and mixed. I basically made a handful of beans per person. You can always add more almonds, etc.

Also, a must with this dinner is popovers. About 20 minutes before the beef was done, I took some grease from the bottom of the baking dish into a small bowl. I took the grease and put it into non-stick cupcake tins, then poured the popover batter over that (about 1/4 of an inch worth of popover batter and just enough grease to coat the bottom of the cupcake tins). Ingredients for popovers (20) is 2 cups whole milk, 4 eggs, 2 cups of flour, salt and pepper. Mix until the flour is completely mixed through. I put the cupcake tins in another oven at 450 for 15 minutes, then lowered the temperature to 350 for another 15 minutes. So, when I finished cutting the beef, the popovers were coming out of the oven.

Best part, dessert. I got this recipe from the December issue of Bon Appetit. Peppermint ice cream cake with chocolate layers. It was fantastic! You need a 9″ springform pan (removable bottom). I made the peppermint ice cream with the Cuisinart Ice Cream machine. I followed a vanilla ice cream recipe and added crushed peppermints and peppermint extract at the end of the recipe (you need about 6 cups worth). I took a 9 ounce box of chocolate wafers and crushed them in a cuisinart until fine. I melted 4 T butter with 6 ounces of milk chocolate chips and then added this into the crushed cookies until they were wet. I literally smushed 1/2 the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan until they were uniform across the bottom and up the sides of the pan about 1 – 1 1/2 inches. Keep the remaining crushed cookies for later. Then, freeze this for an hour. While this was freezing, I took 1/2 cup of cream and 1/4 cup of light karo syrup. Brought it to a boil and then removed from the heat and whisked in 6 ounces of chocolate chips. Let come to room temperature but make sure it is pourable/spreadable. The chip bags do not come in the 6 or 8 ounce size, so just estimate. You can’t go wrong with a little extra chocolate. I am sure I added in more chocolate than necessary. Take the frozen pan out of the freezer, mash in evenly about 1/2 the ice cream mixture (1/4 or so up the sides), then I took half the chocolate melted mixture and created a layer over the ice cream. Then took the remaining crushed cookies and spread it over that. Freeze again for a couple of hours. Take out again and put the remaining ice cream over the chocolate later and put on the rest of the melted chocolate layer again. Let freeze over night. When you serve, take a knife and put in warm water to help loosen up the cookies and cut around the edges to get out. Then slowly push the bottom up. I took crushed peppermints and put it on top before serving. Also, I used a really heavy duty knife – almost like the ones they use for cutting chicken with – to cut the slices so that the came out as one. The cookie mixture tends to stick to the bottom of the pan. It was a huge hit. It was like eating a big peppermint patty. It is time consuming but so worth it!

So, xmas dinner is over. Everyone went to bed stuffed. It is hard not to want to do this meal at least once a year…