Though many people across the globe celebrate Christmas, each country—indeed, each household—has its own set of customs and quirks. In Ethiopia, Christmas falls in January, and in Gävle, Sweden, this year spelled another fiery end for the city’s annual Yule Goat. But commonly, this holiday season is about food, and while we all have our family’s recipes passed down through generations, we looked into a few usual suspects for your enjoyment on Christmas Day.
Whether you’re staying in with family for the holiday feast, or hosting friends for a more low-key event, begin the night with a few snacks and small bites that everyone can munch on while orbiting conversations throughout the room. A Shrimp cocktail and baked brie will easily win over the crowd while they’re awaiting dinner. Head over to Epicurious for their grilled shrimp cocktail recipe. The freshly grated horseradish adds an extra kick to the cocktail sauce, and the tangy lemon juice and sweet shrimp complement the spice splendidly. The Kitchn has a recipe for an incredible baked brie with cranberry sauce that will take the evening up a notch, but don’t overlook the importance of a quality cracker pairing. You’ll want to find crackers with a good crunch—beware the crumbly crackers.
While some families roast a turkey for Christmas, others save that tradition solely for Thanksgiving and instead enjoy a glazed ham, pork chop, or a roast for Christmas Dinner. Bon Appetit created an entire slideshow to catalogue holiday roasts, and by the third or fourth slide you’ll see why: It’s nearly impossible to choose between the options. Holiday ham with riesling and mustard? Bacon and spinach-stuffed rib-eye roast? Yes and yes.
But protein dishes can quickly usurp the dining room table, and I’d be willing to bet that you’re either related to or friends with a vegetarian (or vegetarians), so adding a veggie main course option—roasted portobellos with rosemary, perhaps—will give you major points. If you’re having trouble thinking of options, Saveur may just save the day with a compilation of enticing meatless mains and sides. If you are enjoying turkey for Christmas, I’d also recommend double-checking that your doors are securely shut so that you don’t end up like the Parkers from A Christmas Story.
The side dishes displayed around the centerpiece should brighten and color the table. For emerald greens, check out this simple recipe for Brussels sprouts from The New York Times. The balsamic vinegar in this dish is a classic touch. Hop over to Bon Appetit for a roasted fingerling potatoes recipe with parsley. Lemon plays a major role in this dish, as it should—Winter is citrus season. Saveur shared a carrot and pistachio salad recipe from Classic Recipes for Modern People that will bring rich oranges, golds, and purples to your table.
And for dessert? Pie always. Bourbon brown-butter pecan, if we’re being specific. You can prepare pie dough from scratch a couple days in advance, saving you time and sanity on the 25th. Recipes for this pie abound, but the best pie crust recipe I’ve found is an all-butter crust via The New York Times.
Share the experience of cooking and enhancing food with friends and family. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn new techniques, share a few laughs, and make invaluable memories. Good luck, and good cooking!