I hope you will be able to have your Christmas dinner with a house-full of family. And if you are so-lucky, this meal will easily scale up to 8. But if, like me, you are cooking only for yourself or a neighbor/spouse/room-mate, this menu is equally perfect. It's not difficult and I make the bulk of it a day or two ahead so I have time to relax with some wine and an hors dóuevres before dinner instead of frantically trying to prepare an entire meal at once.
A once-common feature at English teas was a ramekin of seasoned shrimp or mushrooms - referred to as either potted shrimp or potted mushrooms. The main ingredient is cooked in butter, seasoned and then packed in butter (this is similar to the French confit). In addition to the rich flavor the butter brings, it also acts as a preservative so that potted shrimp can last as long as 4 weeks in the refrigerator. Potted shrimp makes a great canapé for a party, but also a great snack just waiting in the fridge.
I made these Pear-glazed Cornish Hens for Thanksgiving one year. Delicious! And, because I have a tendency to run with themes, I garnished the hens with sautéed pears, made a pear and sausage dressing (stuffing) and anointed the roasted Brussels sprouts with butter and pear vinegar. They strike me as perfect for Christmas. While you probably don't want to cook the hens themselves in advance you can certainly make the glaze a day or two ahead. And the hens themselves are low-effort.
I came up with Pear and Country Sausage Stuffing one Christmas when I wanted to serve a stuffed pork loin. I've stuffed pork loins with all kinds of things over the years and pork is particularly good matched with the sweetness of fruit so I developed this idea. Then decided the stuffing was going to be too good to limit it to the little bit that would fit into the loin. So I made a bigger batch and baked it in a casserole. This is really good stuff with both pork and poultry.
A roast bird such as chicken seems to demand gravy, and if you're including stuffing/dressing or mashed potatoes with that bird then gravy is absolutely required. The base recipe is very easy. It relies on canned chicken broth but offers two ideas to seriously goose (chicken?) the broth's flavor - although if you have homemade chicken stock on hand that's obviously the superior choice. The last time I made it I had just enough left over after the meal to pour on a couple of slices of toast for breakfast. Good stuff.
I don't know why it took me so long to roast Brussels sprouts. Lord knows I've roasted almost every other vegetable you can imagine. Nevertheless I did finally get around to it and I've been kicking myself ever since for not doing so before. As with most vegetables, roasting highlights their natural sugars and deepens the flavor. Roasting is also effective at eliminating the aromatic compounds that cause many to dislike sprouts. Prep these sprouts a day ahead and slide them into the oven 15 minutes after the hens.
My Christmas Cheesecake is based on my father's recipe for eggnog. He made a batch of 'nog every year at Thanksgiving then let it age until Christmas for over 50 years, but he quit making it in his late seventies. I took on the chore, but one Christmas I simply didn't have time to make it in time to age properly so I came up with this cheesecake as a replacement - a huge success.