Boaters can plan a large holiday gathering aboard with a festive menu and cocktails to celebrate Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, right? After all, we plan for multi-week ocean crossings, the possibility of boat failure, and provisioning. We set up redundant systems on our boats, planning for all possibilities of events, Armageddon possibly. We have run our boats aground, dealt with wicked tides, and weathered nasty storms with 50-knot winds. With all this in mind, we can execute a nice dinner party complete with cocktails, nice snacks, and a full holiday menu, right? We survived Thanksgiving and learned from our mistakes, so now we can roll up our sleeves to take another run at a celebratory dinner.
Planning is everything, and the way to survive large holiday gatherings is to organize so that all the various dinner courses are taken care of in advance. The weather is cold, not freezing, so items for the dinner can be stored outside in a large plastic storage container. Shopping can be done in advance, and planning should occur two weeks in advance. Buy all your dry goods and non-perishables a few weeks out. Buy the squash, potatoes, onions, and baking goods at this time. While at the store, I select wines and pre-order rolls and a nice leg of lamb or beef rib roast. If it all feels overwhelming, order a nice chocolate cake for dessert too! Buy some simple hors d’oeuvres that will keep — nice cheeses, olives, and crackers are sufficient — and make sure to have some bottles of sparkling mineral water on hand to pace your guests and keep them hydrated.
As the guests arrive, the majority of the work will be done. Have a nice area to sit with a board of cheeses. As the evening progresses, an organized prep list with a timeline will help you can keep track of what needs to get done. Have your tools ready, the kitchen clean, and platters labelled with appropriate serving utensils nearby. When it comes time to sit for dinner, have a salad ready to go as an appetizer that guests can start on while the roast is brought to the table with potatoes, rolls, and vegetables. The sauce can be finished early and held warm. Have wines for dinner opened early and on the table. Once you sit, you will be able to relax.
The day of the event, ask someone else to help with cocktails and champagne. When the guests arrive, enlist the help of one of your favorites to help with last minute details. The reality is that, if you have organized well, you will be relaxed and ready to enjoy this holiday dinner. It is all in the preparation. Treat this upcoming holiday dinner like a long boat trip with lots of planning. Happy holidays and happy New Year!
Roast Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic Rub
(Makes about 12 servings)
In a small bowl combine half the olive oil with the garlic, anchovies, lemon zest, minced parsley and sage. Open the deboned leg of lamb and rub the interior with the garlic herb mixture. Season with salt and pepper, then truss the lamb. Sear in a hot pan until golden on all sides. Place in a roasting pan and roast in a hot oven at 400 degrees until meat internal temperature is 130° degrees, about 20 – 30 minutes. Optional: The leg of lamb can be grilled slowly, or put on a spit rotisserie.
Celery Root Remoulade Salad
To make the dressing, whisk together mustard and yolks in a bowl; while whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in oil, a few drops at a time, to emulsify. Continue slowly streaming oil into bowl and whisking until a smooth mayonnaise forms; stir in cayenne and juice. Add blanched celery root, capers, and the parsley to the dressing. Toss the salad gently, season and store in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap and until cold. Serve a small mound on each plate, garnish with parsley.
Roast Squash and Lacinato Kale
Preheat an oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl add the diced squash, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash until a golden brown. At the same time, toss the kale with oil and salt and spread out on a baking sheet and flash roast for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy. Toast the pepitas and pine nuts on a baking sheet till golden. Heat up a medium sauté pan, add the red onion, a bit of salt, and cumin seeds; sweat until soft. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic slices and toast; then add the mixture to a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8”x 8” baking dish, and peel the potatoes and cut into very thin slices. Place a few layers of the sliced potatoes in the baking dish, season with salt, white pepper, and a small amount of nutmeg. Sprinkle on a thin layer of cheese, add another layer of potatoes, seasoning, and cheese; repeat until all the potatoes and about three-fourths of the cheese is used. Pour the cream over the potatoes, and top with the remaining cheese. Bake covered with parchment and foil at 350° until the potatoes are tender and golden, then remove the covering and allow to cook and brown lightly. Total cooking time is about one hour.
Green Beans with Hazelnuts & Parsley
Blanch greens beans in well-salted, boiling water until beans are al dente, remove from the blanching water to a serving platter, and allow to cool. When ready to serve, heat a sauté pan and add oil, shallots, and nuts; allow to toast lightly. Season the nut mixture with salt and pepper; add the green beans with a pinch of parsley. Cover and allow to steam for 5-10 minutes or until tender, top with butter when finished. Can reheat with water or stock.