A simple but unusual and classy starter is always a good way to get into the holiday mood. Our recent holiday dinners weren’t as fussy as they used to be, but there was a variety and abundance of food that doesn’t happen often during the rest of the year…
Before dinner guests nibbled on home-made pate de campagne with green peppercorns with grainy mustard and cornichons on french bread. I made several pates and had them in the fridge for all the holiday entertaining and to send to friends and family.
We also had large tubs of creamy chicken liver pate, served with a balsamic onion relish also with french bread. This was particularly good this year (I have featured it before) and I think it was the addition of a little bit of heavy cream and butter that provided that silkiness not often found in homemade pates.
Gorgeous baby radishes were a hit with some foreign guests, a french lady in particular. I like the flavor and bite of a young radish, it seems to clear the palate between nibbles of fatty and rich flavored appetizers.
When guests moved from the living area to the dining table, the first course served was this plate of homemade brioche circles sauteed in butter, with a whole egg yolk in the center that had been just slightly baked and plated with a generous spoonful of black caviar (lumpfish roe actually). This was visually stunning and a conversation starter. It looks complicated but it was incredibly easy to pull together. The recipe is credited to the Chef/Owner of the Bistro Le Comptoir in Paris. When you pierce the egg yolk, it should run over the edge of the fried/toasted bread and you combine a bit of brioche, a bit of egg and a touch of caviar for a palate awakening mouthful. Delicious. Definitely a keeper of an appetizer. Will do a post on it separately for those interested in replicating this.
A second appetizer plate featured several slices of beetroot-cured salmon gravlax served with a dollop of creme fraiche with chopped dill and garnished with red basil leaves.
The main course was either glazed ham or roast prime rib (of course at this point I forgot to take photos of the whole joints!) served with yorkshire pudding, potatoes roasted in goose fat, herbed and buttered green french beans and heirloom carrots. A light gravy is poured over the beef in the photo above.
But perhaps the food was eclipsed by the stunning selection of wines that arrived with guests that evening. Regulars know the drill… we cook the food and set the table, guests bring wine if they drink (and boy can they drink). Several of the guests were serious wine drinkers and this is what we had with dinner. For the opening toast, Mrs. MM and I provided the Veuve Clicquot champagne, a house favorite and almost always the champagne we use to celebrate our wedding anniversary, Christmas and other very special holidays. This was crisp and dry and went well with the caviar and salmon.
The appetizers like rich pates and nuts were enjoyed with either cocktails or a glass of Saint Jacques, the second line of Chateau Siran.
Three different robust and toothsome reds were served with the main course. Chateau Phelan-Segur 2004…
…a magnum of Segla 2007…
…a 2008 Barolo that paired nicely with the beef…
…or another Margaux from Chateau Siran, brought by one of the owners of the vineyard. We didn’t finish all of the wine (we would have all been under the table if we had) but it was just a wonderful combination of friends, food and wine. We had a selection of 6 cheeses after the main course, some fruit, and for dessert, a delicious gingerbread cake brought by one of the guests. Coffee, tea and chocolates to end the first holiday meal. Many of our guests have been at our holiday table year after year after year, and it’s always a challenge to come up with a menu that will whet their appetites and keep them coming back for more… but in the end, I think regardless of what we put on the table or in our glasses, its the camaraderie and friendship and warmth that we seek and there’s no better time to do it than in the run up to Christmas!