December 25, 2016

The Year's Grand Finale: My Family Christmas Dinner

All year round I am either traveling, trying out new restaurants and tasting new innovative bites...the adventures are endless. Exciting as it all is, there's one dinner party that beats them all - in my book - and that is Christmas dinner with my family, prepared by my mother in law. I anticipate this dinner year after year. "The Annual Christmas Dinner" is a special event which we all spend the whole year looking forward to. Finally, come Christmas, we get to sit around the family table - which is filled with homemade and sumptuous dishes and delicious delicacies. The last time I wrote about Christmas dinner at my in laws was back in 2013, it's about time I repeat the dedication.

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We arrived at eight o'clock to be treated to the amazing red and gold decoration that follows you all around the place; starting at the entrance,  the living room, dining room... The dining table was perfection, with details that ignited all our senses - preparing them to enjoy the best dinner of the year - shining cutlery by Villeroy & Boch, designer plates by Babette, silk table napkins, fine crystal wine glasses of red, green and gold and much much more... This perfect Christmas table was accompanied by the beautifully decorated tree and festive tunes filled the place with the season's spirit.

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On the menu: 

  • Smoked Salmon: a fillet, cured and hot smoked and served in two different ways - thin slices and Balik style. A thick non oily, high-end fish imported from Scotland. Lemon slices and capers are enough to accompany this fine dish. I get my Salmon from "Le Marin Traiteur".
  • Mousse de Canard (Duck mousse) 
  • Mousse au Poivre Pâté au Champagne 
  • Foie Gras au Torchon: homemade and carefully hand crafted by my friend Candy Yaghi. This year Candy sent her black truffle version, infused and adding aromas to the cylinder.
  • Green salad: more of a vegetable platter including endives, Roma lettuce, Frizé lettuce, iceberg, Lolo Verde and tomatoes. Add the signature homemade sauce I call "The yellow sauce" - Mustard, mayonnaise, lemon and oil and some seasoning. Simple yet unique. 
  • Delicatessen cold cuts: different kinds of salami and smoked ham alongside a bread basket brought from Al Mandaloun Bakery.
  • Six kinds of rustic French cheese: Brie, Roquefort, old Amsterdam, goat cheese, Istara, Gruyere fruitee and local halloum.
  • The famous oven-roasted turkey: prepared like none other on earth! It was stuffed with chestnuts and apples, and the juiciest turkey I've ever tasted. So moist and so rich, served with brown rice on the side mixed with almonds, pine nuts and peanuts... I could eat this every single day, all of my life. I loved the rice which was cooked al dente, the crunchy skin of the turkey, the mini potatoes soft like butter and the generous load of chestnuts. What made all the difference was the sauce, which was a brown sauce made of red wine, the turkey's juices and red vinegar.

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Every single preparation was sumptuous, especially the roast turkey: something really unique, something I have never had the chance to taste before in my life. I'm amazed every single year as if it was the first. I don't know if I can describe the sensation well - but you enjoy soft and tender pieces of turkey covered with thick shields of fat, outstandingly tasty and crunchy skin - without feeling the pronounced taste of "turkey". It doesn't cloy in the mouth, it's not thick, it's not dry, it's not white but instead mixes a blend of aromas and colors making you close your eyes with pleasure after every bite. I had a piece from each different part of the turkey. Pieces of heaven! On top of that the brown sauce, some chestnuts, a few grilled mini potatoes and here we have a superb creation. I love the rice that comes with it and the perfection that goes into preparing it - how it's cooked just right and mixed with pine nuts, peanuts and almonds.

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Tonight's wine: Ixsir, Grande Reserve 2009. Rich in minerals and saturated with Mediterranean character, this wine unleashes exuberant aromas of mature fruits and spices. Its concentrated taste carried by a fine mouth feel gives it an attractive liveliness, while its rich and mellow yet always complex palate lasts until the final touch of fruit. Proudly one of Lebanon's best red wines.

After dinner it was surely Bûche time! The Christmas logs were brought from "Al Mandaloun" - a chocolate Yule log rolled meticulously one layer over the other, a tender sponge and moist intensely flavored dark chocolate cream. It's not buttery, not dry and deeply enjoyable. "Bûche au Marron" is not as I expected it to be. A drier sponge than it should be - thicker than the chocolate one - a chestnut cream with a light sweetness. However I expected more flavor and finesse.

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I hope you all spent a memorable Christmas Eve with your families and friends... and filled your tummies with delicious preparations like the ones I enjoyed...

Here I would like to take a moment to remember every person who didn't have the chance to enjoy a hot meal on this special occasion; in hope that the season brings them warmth and peace.

Take a break this week as New Year's Eve is coming with more and much bigger expectations.

Categories: Reviews




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