Friday, December 28, 2007

Our Christmas Eve Dinner

It’s our tradition – dinner between Christmas Eve church services.

What started out as a practical solution has become a feast, its own menu of legendary proportion.

Laurie and I met in October of 1991, when I joined the choir at Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church in New Orleans. She is a sensational singer, a gloriously pure soprano with a killer range, exquisite subtlety and breathtaking sensitivity. I adore listening to Laurie sing – and I get to call her my dear friend.

Our church has two Christmas Eve services, one at 5:30pm that tends to draw families and one at 11pm, quieter and more contemplative, pulling in couples young and old, divorcees and widowers, and especially those for whom the late, candlelight service is more meaningful. It makes for a long night of singing, but it is one of our favorites musically and gastronomically.

Laurie is a sensational cook – that first year, she whipped up a marvelous risotto for four of us. Over the years, we’ve had this and that, but this year was our 12th in a row with principally the same menu. Straying from it now seems like sacrilege.

First Course:
Carrot Zucchini Bisque – it may sound odd at first but oh, is it good! I found this recipe in another form in a cookbook my sister gave me when I was moving out on my own. She thought it was a book of Quick & Easy cooking, when in actuality it was a Lite Cooking guide. This Bisque recipe called for skim milk…I swapped that out for an equal amount of heavy whipping cream. Oooooh. Since it’s not nice to tease, here’s the version I use now:

1 Cup Water
6 large Carrots, peeled and diced
2 or 3 medium Zucchini, peeled and diced
2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
2 tablespoons Flour
¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
3 chicken bouillon cubes or packets

In a medium saucepan, add water and place over high heat. Add carrots, cover saucepan and cook for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, cook for 5 minutes more. Remove saucepan from heat and drain liquid. (Save the liquid to use as a base for stock later, if you’d like.)

Puree vegetables in the same pot with an immersion blender (or hand mixer or whatever works for you. I’ve never owned a food processor.) Add the heavy cream and place over medium heat, uncovered. While stirring constantly with a wire whisk, sprinkle in the flour, black pepper and cinnamon.

Add the bouillon (I swear by the Better Than Bouillon brand – and they make a super Vegetable bouillon in case you need to make this for vegetarians) and continue to stir until it dissolves. Heat for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently so soup does not stick or burn. Serve in shallow flat bowls, garnished with a parsley sprig. 4 servings.

Second Course:
Field Greens with mini Goat Cheese cheesecakes. Oh. My. Gosh. Laurie bakes these tiny Goat Cheese and Chive cakes earlier in the day – they’re still warm on the salad plate. Yum!

Third Course:
Spaghetti Bolognese – Laurie’s mother’s recipe for the sauce, adapted to our taste with some of the incredible hot sausages we get here in Louisiana. Lots of freshly grated Parmesan and warm bread (we let Whole Foods take care of that).

Peppermint Ice Cream with Dove Dark Chocolate sauce. Peppermint Bark (Williams-Sonoma). Lindor Truffles. Some years we never even make it to dessert after all the previous courses.

Oh, and don’t forget – Prosecco, flowing throughout the courses. And, to get us into the proper mood for the second service, selections from the South Park Christmas CD – we can do most of the parts to the Dreidl Song, with counterpoint.

Then, we waddle our behinds back to church for the late Christmas service.

I have family around the world. I have family here in New Orleans.

And now we have our family traditions. Hope you had a great Christmas – ours was one of the best in years.

8 comment(s):

Jenn in Holland

Hahaha! The southpark dreidl song complete with counterpoint!

Oh, yummy. What a very gezellig evening and event for you. I feel cozy just in the retelling. Enjoy the memories.

painted maypole

sounds great.

my family always had all the church staff... organist, choir director, etc... over between services for cookies and egg nog, etc. It's a good tradition, I miss it. I loved reading this, seeing that others do a similar thing.

soccer mom in denial

I am so so SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad Laurie is in your life. I know you are taken care of and loved.

What great Christmas Eves have. And yes, screwing up the menu is sacriligious.


My God, that sounds good!

Jenn in Holland

something for you today at my place...

Aimee Greeblemonkey

Ohhh, that is making my mouth water! Happy (belated) holidays to you too!

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Yum peppermint ice cream.

Any photos of this food?

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