Crafting a smaller holiday dinner

Like so many others, my husband and I are going to be alone for the holidays for the first time in many years. Even though we rarely travelled to celebrate with family, we always invited other ‘orphan’ friends to our home or would go to the neighbors for Christmas Eve or Christmas – and in some years, to celebrate the solstice or Festivus! For close to a decade, I have been making a bûche de Noël to take to Christmas Eve dinner (I’m always the dessert person, a role I cherish). But this year is different. There will be no Yule log, we won’t be crammed together around a too-small table filled with laughter, and there will be no traditional Danish dancing around the tree at our friend’s home.

While this turn of events is unfortunate, my husband and I will make the most of it by indulging in special, intimate meals brimming with our favorite foods. I’ve already made the Christmas Eve dessert – petite versions of Nigella Lawson’s Rhubarb and custard trifle from Cook, Eat, Repeat – and we will replace the traditional turkey with beef stroganoff, which is undeniably more delicious. We will also indulge in a creamy parsnip puree since there will be no parsnip haters to placate. And I will be able to eat as many pickles as I want from the relish tray without anyone looking askance at me.

Since so many of us will be cooking for fewer guests, we are all seeking ideas for smaller meals. One of the most searched items at Epicurious at the moment is their gallery of romantic dinners for two. Don’t forget that the EYB Library contains a filter for ‘Cooking for 1 or 2’, and that features over 17,000 online recipes! If you want to stay in the Christmas theme, apply the Christmas filter as well, and you’ll find 450+ recipes perfectly suited for this occasion.

Although we will be checking in with our friends and relatives using various electronic means, it will not be the same as holidays past. 2020 takes me back to the first time I spent Christmas away from my family, having just graduated college and moving far away for my first real job. Enjoying a special meal lessens the blow of being apart, even if only a little, and I am also thankful that these days we have much better ways to communicate with one another when we cannot be together.

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  • averythingcooks  on  December 24, 2020

    Beef has been on my Christmas dinner menu every year since T & I bought our house together in 2006. Typically with 8 around our table, prime rib roast, beef tenderloin, red wine braised short ribs & even a beautiful beef stew have all made multiple appearances. With just 2 of us this year, it’s going to be grilled rib eye kebobs, Barefoot Contessa’s roasted summer veg, Melissa Clark’s (instant pot) butter braised Yukon golds and Rebar’s Cascade spinach salad. EYB research sent me into my books to look for new things to try and I’m getting very good at scaling recipes back to serve 2! Dessert will be shortbread cookies with
    boozy coffees. Different….but hopefully no less special than other years.

  • Lsblackburn1  on  December 24, 2020

    I’ll be trying beef Wellington for the first time (Chris Santos’ individual wellingtons) and a Melissa Clark potato and leek gratin. I asked my husband, do you mind if we just have a salad instead of a veg? I’ll be making another Santos recipe – his kale salad. Then yesterday, I scrapped the bread pudding with custard plan after realizing we can’t even use the table because of all the xmas cookies on it. Scaling back and allowing myself to not overdo it!

  • mharriman  on  December 24, 2020

    As with Christmas this year, it was just my husband and me for Thanksgiving. So,I skipped the traditional turkey dinner and made the cranberry pot roast linked in your November cranberry article. It was delicious, good enough to repeat, especially as a Christmas meal for two with leftovers or for family sometime in the future.
    For our Christmas dinner tomorrow, I’m making something I’ve already tried and liked from Zaitoun, a roast chicken stuffed with basmati rice, pine nuts and raisins, a Christmas and Easter specialty known in The Galilee region. We’ll start, as always, with escargot and homemade French bread. The vegetable will be from Southern Living Magazine- Cranberry roasted winter vegetables.
    Even though it won’t be the same with no grandkids about, we’ll enjoy taking our dog for a walk and look forward to 2021 when we hope to be vaccinated long before next holiday season.

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