A lot of the activity for the holidays at Chez Marketman & Family really takes place before December 24th, what with the dÃ©cor, the baking, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts, gingerbread, the charitable causes, early masses, the holiday dinners, parties, etc. By the time we get to Christmas Eve and the week that follows, we try to relax and enjoy the holidays in a bit more of a relaxed mode. Following our staff party on December 23rd, we had a small and intimate dinner on Christmas Eve. I wasnâ€™t sure I was still going to do a post on it (as it has a familiar ring to the dishes for regular MM readers) but some of you have privately emailed asking what was for dinnerâ€¦so here goes for the curious out thereâ€¦ First of all, though we tend to do a small dinner on the Eve, we do go for elegance and a festive moodâ€¦ We start with a nice red tablecloth, lots of tapered candles in lead crystal candleholders, together with the best glasses and silver. Place settings included large mother of pearl plates my mother gave me when I lived in a studio apartment in New York 15 years ago and which are the perfect foil for a seafood starter.
The Kid requested a starter of fresh crabmeat salad with dill, made from live crabs bought at the seafood market that morning. The crab mixture was served with toasted French bread and it was perfectâ€¦ sweet, fresh and light despite the astronomical calorie count. Everyone had several servings of this on the mother of pearl plates. Next we had huge brined and steamed prawns with a cocktail sauce. The main course for the evening was a roast beef au jus, some potatoes fried in goose fat (also featured in an earlier dinner), some asparagus and a green salad with baby arugula, romaine, Sagada grown navel oranges (superb) and red Anjou pears. The food was laid out as a buffet at the other end of a long dining table so that guests could help themselves and take as much or as little as they liked.
After the main course and salad, the dishes were cleared and finger bowls brought out to accompany a cheese and fruit course of triple cream cheese, dried fruits and three kinds of grapes. The finger bowls are almost a throwback to another era, but since inheriting several dozen of these pressed-glass bowls from my grandmother and mother, I have always thought to use them whenever I can and Christmas Eve was highly appropriate, I think. Resting on small linen squares on a nice bright red plate, the finger bowls certainly added to the formal/informal festive atmosphere that evening. The more candles, crystal and silver on the table, the more reflections of light and the softer the mood… I find that candlelight actually makes people look better at a dining table…
The dessert choices on Christmas Eve included a grape tart that I posted earlier, as well as a sinfully rich chocolate pudding that we ended up eating sandwiched between fantastic lenguas de gato and Boholano broas. We had a nice white wine with the seafood appetizers, champagne for a toast to good friends and a good year, and red wine for the beef. A slower paced, well-practiced menu for a relaxed and satisfying Christmas Eve a la Marketman & Familyâ€¦ And no, we had no traditional Noche Buena at midnight unlike most folks around here; we were passed out by 1 in the morning… If we did, I would have put out a simple snack of homemade ensaimada, some slices of ham and cheese and some fruit. Perhaps some hot chocolate as well.