Christmas Dinner: No Turkeys Allowed!

By Emily Thorson

What’d you eat on Christmas? I think the traditional Christmas meal is odd because it’s so similar to the Thanksgiving meal. And we JUST FINISHED those leftovers, dammit.

My family has two meals on Christmas day, and both are roughly Swedish-themed (note my last name):

Lunch consists of several smaller foods: tiny open-face egg salad and shrimp sandwiches, olives, good cheese, crackers (especially Wasa), pate, salami, and then the fishes: gravlax and herring. This year’s spread was on the small side since some of the family couldn’t make it, but I took a few photographs.


Oh man, I *love* herring. This is the fresh stuff, but you can get little jars of “herring in wine sauce” at the grocery store and it is fantastic–ideal for a quick snack and filled with health omega-3’s (or o-3 fatties, as I call them. No, seriously I do).

For dinner we have Swedish meatballs with egg noodles, homeade bread, lingonberry sauce, and a token vegetable of some sort (this year it was roasted carrots). It’s a light dinner–we’ve usually spent the entire day eating candy from the stocking, so no one is *starving*.

But really–what DO other people eat for Christmas dinner? Do you really roast an entire turkey/ham and cook up some stuffing and cranberry sauce?

BONUS: photo of me photographing the food. Whoa, it’s so meta.


17 responses to “Christmas Dinner: No Turkeys Allowed!

  1. My family has been doing a roast leg of lamb for the last several Christmas dinners. What I enjoy even more is our Christmas Eve dinner, a casual meal where we make sandwiches out of slices of just-roasted beef and a horseradish-y spread (vaguely like “beef on weck”) and have a bunch of other small things like savory tarts and shrimp.

  2. I’m Jewish, so I celebrate Christmas by cooking for a friend’s family. It’s a great gift for a Jew to give to your closest goyishe friend. I don’t have anything better to do, and it’s not like Santa’s coming to visit me. Besides, my mother used to always tell me the three word Yiddish phrase for I love you: “Eat, eat, eat!” So at some level, I do this in her memory, even if she would be horrified by the treyff food and treyff kitchen.

    This year, I made a butternut squash and vanilla soup, then ballontine of Cornish game hens (that’s where you take the whole bird off the bone in one piece, leaving the skin intact. Don’t be so impressed, I saw Jacques Pepin do it on TV once and realized it’s not that hard.) stuffed with a cornbread stuffing, served with a pomegranate glaze and some pomegranate seeds for decoration, polenta, a roasted beet salad with grapefruit and chevre, and individual chocolate souffles for dessert.

    Most of this was a response to NOT wanting a big bird this close to Thanksgiving. But I admit that I wanted to make goose and figgy pudding just on general principles.

    (Yeah, I live in DC, and yeah, you’re all invited over to my house for dinner next year! All of you. The readers, the writers, all of you.)

  3. Holy crap you included maybe ALL of my favorite foods in that meal (pomegranate, cornbread, Things With No Annoying Bones, butternut squash, BEETS). It’s amazing.

  4. For the last four years, we’ve done a feast of crab legs. No sides. Nothing else. Just pounds and pounds of crab.

  5. We used to do a spiral ham, but I contend that spiral hams are overrated.

  6. Is spiral ham the same as honeybaked ham? Those are awfully good, especially the next day on sandwiches.

  7. Brunch (after presents) has been the phenomenal yeast risen waffle recipe from Cook’s Illustrated a while back. The tang from the yeast is just perfect, and they are amazingly light and crispy.

    Dinner is usually a roast of some kind. Sort of like what Thanksgiving should be if it weren’t for the Turkey tradition. This year was a pork crown roast, a nice beet and blue cheese salad, and Bittman’s sweet potatoes (so good I had to make them again).

  8. we did the vegetarian christmas thing. savory bread pudding with gruyere and herbs (from bittman’s how to cook everything vegetarian book), braised pumpkin with cranberry and pistachios (again, bittman), vegan green bean casserole, arugula and beet salad, and a couple of bakery cakes. worked out good.

  9. Carnitas! With corn tortillas, black beans and tons of guacamole. Then the next morning, huevos rancheros with the leftovers. Best. Christmas. Dinner. Ever.

  10. Christmas was a dish-to-pass dinner for 12, with roast ham (spiral cut), roast turkey breast, two stuffing/dressings – both bread cube based with onions and celery- one vegetarian w/ apricots and the other with sausage, a vegetarian multi-cheese lasagna, green salad, brussel sprouts, steamed kale w/ garlic, garlicky mashed potatoes, home made apple pie, and lots of Spanish Cava sparkling wine.

  11. My family has in the past alternated between turkey, turkey and ham, and goose. The goose was always brought down by a family member.

    For sides, we would do white mashed potatoes, candied or mashed sweet potatoes, salad, corn, rolls, cauliflower in cheese sauce, and broccoli. For dessert, we had a choice of pumpkin pie, peach pie, apple dumplings, or gingerbread cookies.

  12. Growing up we always had spiral-cut ham, which I detest. So this year we had roast rack of lamb, mushroom risotto, and spaghetti squash. And about seventeen pounds of chocolate.

  13. I was going to do goose this year, but the prices were just insane!! So I did a rib roast instead with roasted root veggies and yorkshire pudding.

  14. JimPortlandOR

    Yep, Turkey on both Thanksgiving and Festivus/Xmas et. al. is a bit much, although my Chicago memories say that was standard when viewed in the way-back machine.

    For a ceremonial holiday meal, standing beef rib roast (prime rib) is superb. Rack of Lamb is also great, but for smaller appetites. Don’t forget the creamed horshradish, baked potato (sour cream and butter… mmmm), and a good Oregon Merlot. Most recipes lie about the best ‘done’ temp for med-rare (they say 140, but 130 plus 15 min of standing after being out of the oven is perfect.

    Most important. Stand the roast bone down, and insert into the fatty top slivers (lots!) of fresh garlic by puncturing the fat layer with a knife and forcing the garlic into the meat.

    Another enhancer: the ‘au jus’ needs attention. I start with canned beef stock (or dry-packaged au jus sauce) and reduce it subtantially, then add some Oregon Merlot and reduce again until it is more like a gravy than au just normally is. Put under the sliced roast and serve the sauce also for dribbling on the baked potato.

    Leftovers are fine too for sandwiches or heated slices under the broiler (which is what most restaurants do, with the heated side put down on the plate so the pink side is up).

  15. I had two Christmas dinners this year.

    The first on Christmas itself was roast beef with yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce and a roast ham – with all the normal trimmings (pigs in blankets, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, mashed carrot and turnip, sprouts with bacon and another random green vegetable).

    The second was on New Year’s Day. It was more classic. A whole roast (though not stuffed) turkey with some very nice homemade appropriately sour cranberry sauce and bread sauce. And a roast ham. And the trimmings.

    I haven’t needed to eat since.

    I’d never heard of spiral-cut ham (here in the UK it just doesn’t exist). So I just searched for it on google. Does it come ready sliced?


  16. My family has a unique tradition… we stay home on Christmas Day and have very few people over. Each of my siblings and I get to choose one thing we want to eat, and we take those things along with whatever my parents want and make a meal to pick at all afternoon. Usually we end up with pot roast, filet mignon, or prime rib (Lindsay and Martin’s choice); wonton soup (picked up from the Chinese restaurant the day before, wontons on the side so they don’t get mushy) or buffalo wings (Martyann’s choice); raw clams (Billy’s choice); clams casino (my choice); something with crab (my mother’s choice); and my dad just goes along with whatever we pick.

    This year I asked for manicotti on top of the usual clams casino. I had a craving (and my boyfriend was coming home with me for Christmas and he’s allergic to shellfish).

    We skipped the wonton soup this year, and the array ended up being antipasto, shrimp cocktail, beef tenderloin, twice-baked potatoes, raw clams, casinos, manicotti, and clam chowder… and of course Christmas cookies for dessert. (It’s nice having a dad who’s a chef and a mom who cooks really well!)

  17. We just had turkey for thanksgiving, my husband doesn’t like med rare prime rib, But i I do I need A new dish that will be a family tradition , could you give me some advice?

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