Nod to Christmas Go-To Dinner Party Menu

ON THE MENU:

Butternut Squash Soup with Winter Pesto & Pine Nuts
Classic Roast Beef with Duck Fat Potatoes and Roast Carrots & Parsnips
Individual Cranberry Orange Meringues

Roast Beef Image 1

BLUEPRINT: The meringue and cranberry orange compote can be made the day before, leaving only the cream to be whipped and the meringues assembled right before serving. The soup and pesto pine nut garnish can be made the day before and simply reheated prior to serving.  A special thank you to Chef Stuart Brown for sharing his recipe. The roast beef, potatoes, parsnips and carrots can be completely ready to rock n roll. Just remember to preheat your oven and get the meat, potatoes and vegetables in at the same time. Your meat can rest while the potatoes and veg finish up and you get your gravy going.

Grocery List:

  • Fruit: 18 oz cranberries, 2 medium tangerines,
  • Produce: 2 cups cubed butternut squash, 1 medium Spanish onion, 1 medium onion, 3 lbs yukon gold potatoes, 2 long carrots, 2 lbs baby carrots, 2 lbs parsnips
  • Fresh Herbs: 1 bunch thyme, 1 bunch rosemary, 1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, 1 bunch mint
  • Meat & Fish: 3 – 4lb roast beef
  • Dairy: 3 eggs, 16 oz heavy cream
  • Frozen: n/a
  • Staples: 6 tbs olive oil, 3 tsp garlic puree
  • Baking:1 tbs corn starch, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tbs flour, 6 oz superfine sugar, 3 tbs confectioners’ sugar
  • Spices: salt, pepper, 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Other: 1 cup apple juice, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 3 tbs D’artagnan duck fat, 1/4 cup red wine

 

Butternut Squash Soup with Winter Pesto & Pine Nuts

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, paring knife, chef’s knife, medium heavy bottomed pot, blender, small non-reactive saute pan, small skillet

Serves: 6 

  • 2 cups of cubed butternut squash (peeled and deseeded)
  • 1/2 medium Spanish onion (diced)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 sprigs thyme (leaves only)
  • 1 bunch picked flat Italian parsley leaves (well washed and dried)
  • 1 tsp garlic puree
  • 4 sprigs rosemary (destemmed)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste.

For the soup: In medium casserole, place 1 tbs olive oil and the onion and cook until translucent. Add the squash and continue cooking on low to medium until squash begins to soften. Season with the thyme, salt and pepper, cover with water, turn up heat and bring flame up to boil. Reduce flame to simmer and cook, uncovered for about an hour. When squash is completely soft, pour mixture into a blender and puree on high until mixture is smooth.

For the pesto/pine nut garnish: Place the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium – high heat. Shake the pan around to toast them evenly and keep an eye on the pan – as they can easily burn. Once they are evenly browned take them off the heat and transfer to a plate to cool. In small, non-reactive sauté pan, heat 1 tbs of olive oil. Drop in the garlic puree and cook for a few minutes. Add a small amount of the pine nuts. Add the parsley and rosemary and toss until the parsley just begins to wilt. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, adding olive oil a little at a time to thin out the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finished product should be fairly oily. Take the rest of the toasted pine nuts and rough chop – set aside.

To Serve:  Ladle soup into warmed cups with saucers. Garnish with pesto and chopped pine nuts. Serve immediately.

 

Classic Roast Beef with Duck Fat Potatoes and Roast Carrots & Parsnips 

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, Pyrex measuring jug, 3 roasting pans, chef’s knife, cutting board, fine mesh strainer, aluminum foil, dish towel

Serves: 6

  • 3 – 4lb roast beef
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 carrots (peeled & chopped)
  • 2 tsp garlic puree
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 3 lbs yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 tbs D’artagnan Duck Fat (olive oil as a substitute)
  • 2 lbs parsnips
  • 2 lbs carrots
  • 1 cup beef stock (I like to use 1 Knorr beef bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water)
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tbs flour
  • bits from the bottom of the pan
  • salt
  • pepper

For the roast beef: Preheat oven to 400˚F. Slice the onion and create a bed for the roast. Place the carrots alongside the onion and put the roast on top. Rub the beef with 2 tbs olive oil and garlic puree.  Generously cover with salt and pepper. Place roast in the oven and cook for 20 minutes per pound + 20 minutes. Cook until the beef reaches an internal temperature of 160˚. Remove the roast and let it rest covered in foil (with a dish towel on top) on a carving board for about ten minutes. While it’s resting work on the gravy.

Gravy: Before you begin, use a spoon to “spoon” out the extra fat in the pan. This is the yellowish clear liquid. Heat the pan on your stovetop on a medium-high and add 2 tablespoon of flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix that in with all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Next add the wine. The alcohol will cook off, but adds some great flavor to the gravy. Once you’ve successfully gotten all the bits off the bottom of the pan, add in about a cup of beef stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the gravy is thickened. Pour the gravy through a fine sieve to catch all the yucky bits. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the Potatoes: Preheat oven to 375˚F. Peel and rinse about 3 lbs (a little more than half a 5 lb bag) of  potatoes and cut into even pieces. (I like to half or quarter mine). Fill a large pot with water and add 2 tbs of kosher salt. Boil for about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander and let cool. Once cool give the colander a good shake to rough up the outside of the potatoes. This will make them wonderfully crispy on the outside after roasting. Place a roasting pan with 3 tbs of duck fat in the preheated oven. Once the fat is melted and  hot (about 5- 10 minutes) place the potatoes in the roasting pan and coat. Sprinkle with 1 tbs of kosher salt. Place back in the oven and cook for about an hour. The potatoes should be golden brown and crispy.

For the Roast Carrots & Parsnips: Preheat oven to 375˚F Peel and cut the parsnips into large julienne pieces. Fill a medium – large pot with water. Add two tablespoons of salt and the parsnips. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 8 minutes. Drain the parsnips and towel dry. Place a roasting pan with 2 tbs of olive oil in preheated oven for about 5 – 10 minutes. Add the parsnips and baby-carrots coating them with the oil. Add 1 tsp salt and place back in the oven for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. They should be crispy and browned on the outside, tender on the inside.

To Serve: As this menu is family Christmas inspired, I think best to serve the soup for the first course; and for the main – slice the roast beef in the kitchen placing a few slices on heated plates and then serving the side dishes family style allowing friends and family to pass and serve themselves.

 

Individual Cranberry Orange Meringues

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, chef’s knife, cutting board, stand alone or hand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula (or off-set spatula if you have one), medium size pot, wooden spoon, citrus juicer,  baking tray, parchment paper

Serves: 6

  • 3 eggs (whites only)
  • 6 ozs superfine sugar
  • 2 medium tangerines (1 juiced / 1 sliced)
  • 1 sixteen oz container of heavy cream
  • 2 tbs of confectioners’ sugar + 1 tsp more for dusting before serving
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 18 oz fresh cranberries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • fresh mint leaves

For the meringue: Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Prepare a baking sheet with a little non-stick cooking spray and then place a sheet of parchment on top. (The non-stick spray helps the parchment stay in place.) To make the meringue, place the egg whites in a bowl and whip them until they are stiff. A good way to know they are ready is to stick a spoon in and scoop up a little. Turn the spoon upside down and if the meringue sticks it’s time to add the sugar. Add the 6 oz of superfine sugar a tablespoon at a time while the mixer is still going. Once all the sugar is in incorporated, spoon the meringue onto the parchment lined baking sheet creating six nests or beds for the margarita cream. I use an off-set spatula, but any spatula will do. It doesn’t have to be perfect – in this case rustic is good! Place in the oven and turn down the temperature to 275 ˚F. Bake for 1 hour and then let the meringue cool.

For the Cream: Place the heavy cream in a mixing bowl and whip. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Place in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.

Tip: I always put my metal mixing bowl in the freezer beforehand to help ensure success in the whipping department.

For the compote: Place the cranberries, juice of 1 tangerine, sliced tangerine, 1 cup apple juice, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 tbs of corn starch in a pot. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, cranberries pop release their juice and the sauce starts to thicken. Take off the heat to cool.

To Serve: Place each meringue nest on an individual plate. Put a dollop of the margarita cream on each meringue nest,  top with the strawberry compote, a sprig of fresh mint and dust with a little confectioners’ sugar. Light, airy and delicious!

 

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