Picking the perfect plates for a complimentary Christmas palate
Ah, Christmas season. That time of year when stylish winter gear comes down from that nook above your closet to be worn for all of two months. Churches open their doors for the world to hear their choir’s sweet Christmas melodies. Crowds gather to select the perfect tree and decorate them with delicate ritualism. And who could forget the lights, dressing houses for miles, visible by satellite—a message to the stars that the holiday season has begun.
But when it comes to the best of Christmas traditions, the family feast takes the cake. Everyone gathered, perhaps still in pajamas, to take part in the blissful practice of tasting a little of this, a lot of that, until the “-itis” kicks in and happy naps ensue.
The best Christmas memories come from this table, and it’s time to get ready to make some more—that means building your menu.
You’ve got a lot of choices, and over the years you’ve fine-tuned your specialty meal that no one can have enough of and everyone talks about. Whether that’s your prime rib roast beef with au jus horseradish cream, your bacon and brussel sprout green bean casserole, or your leek and scallion potato au gratin, you dish it; they love it. And now that the season is here, their anticipation can be cut with a knife.
You’ve mixed and matched over the years. “Bring what you can or throw in some suggestions, we’re going all in this year.” And that works, but candied yams, glazed ham and cranberry sauce might be a bit too sweet for some, and we haven’t even factored in dessert yet.
This year, we’re trying to make it easy to get ahead of your menu planning by offering a Perfect Pairings Guide. Use this handy infographic to create a menu of complimentary flavors, textures, and colors to set the table with a five star Christmas dinner.
Download your copy to hang on your refrigerator for reference. It’s likely to start a few conversations.
Using principles of food pairing, we want to share with you some of the staple plates that match to create the perfect flavor profile.
If you eat roasted lamb, the herby profile (usually thyme and rosemary, but could be fennel and basil) should be hinted at with the garnish of your deviled eggs, and complemented with a savory cheese. Of course, for dessert, you’ll want a Russian Cake, whose fruity, rum flavor with just a touch of anise will contrast and embolden the lamb’s earthy taste.
Lemon Roasted Drum
Whether your family has the Feast of the Seven Fishes, or you’re just privy to the zesty flakes of a Christmas fish, we recommend complementing the lemon and garlic flavors with a potato based, herby oyster stew loaded with celery, onion, and mushroom (which also go well dressed on your fish). Follow that with a crunchy batch of roasted brussel sprouts. You can add bacon for an extra pop of flavor. For dessert, keep that lemon flavor rolling with a delectable Lemon Doberge Torte that everyone will remember.
Honey Glazed Ham
Does your fam go ham over a honey glazed ham? Then you may want to hold back on the sweetness for your starters and sides. Instead, add the savory and southern profiles of a crab and shrimp gumbo and roasted butternut squash. Go with another southern treat, the Cajunnoli (https://www.haydelbakery.com/Cajunnoli), for dessert. It’s not too sweet but is flaky, crunchy, and its ends are dipped in pecans to match the distinctive praline cream cheese center.
Another Southern delicacy, the cajun ham is a pretty notorious staple. The hint of spice and punch of herb flavor makes it a perfect match for the crunchy brine of oyster patties as well as the crunch and cream profile of a southern style green bean casserole. You can find hand cut, New Orleans style pattie shells for your oyster patties here). This combination is hard to top, but add in the pecan coated Cajun Kringle, and you’ve got yourself a Christmas fais do-do.
Oven Roasted Turkey
The Thanksgiving and Christmas staple, turkey is another flavor profile that just perfectly meshes with oyster patties (see our unique recipe). But instead of double-dipping on Thanksgiving traditions, try adding bourbon-glazed sweet potatoes to the mix. They’re crunchy and sweet with a salty finish that brings out the flavors in everything else on the table. Of course, and not just in the sense of tradition, the Yule Log is your dessert of choice here. It’s chocolatey flavor and spongy consistency is the perfect afterburner to top off your tender turkey.
Duck/ Turducken/ Cornish Hen
Smaller poultry and waterfowl have a unique flavor that, if cooked correctly, will amaze any lover of luscious foods. To counter-balance its savory crunch, start off with the juice-filled bites of crab-stuffed mushrooms (especially if you’re keeping with the stuffed Christmas theme). Then, double down on the savory with a cheesy hashbrown casserole. For dessert, go sweet and go for the home run with a Praline Pecan Cheesecake.
Prime Rib Roast Beef
Another Christmas favorite, prime rib roast beef, is covered in delicious herb flavors like rosemary, sage, and thyme. We recommend a dip as a starter, maybe something like a buffalo chicken and bacon dip to excite the palate, getting it ready for the delicious dried herb roast. On the side, sweeten things up with maple glazed baby carrots and of course mashed potatoes and a versatile gravy. This is another meal that you’ll want to go for the gold with dessert. That’s why we recommend the guilty pleasure that is a Brownie Marble Swirl Cheesecake. If your guests don’t save room, more for you.