If you find yourself a little stumped about what to serve — or bring — for Christmas dinner this year, consider one of the recipes below. The staff at Aleteia has brought together some household favorites to create a virtual Christmas potluck. Consider it our gift to you, and happy celebrating!
Navideño Ponche (Christmas Fruit Punch)
This celebratory drink from Senior Editor, Kathleen Hattrup, is sure to put everyone in a festive mood. It’s a Christmas staple in Mexico, typically served warm on a chilly Christmas Eve. Finding the ingredients in the U.S. might be a challenge, but city dwellers will find them at any Fiesta or local Mexican food store. All of the quantities are approximate and more water can be added to make this punch go further.
Ingredients (Serves 7-10) 1 gallon of water to start (more or less) 3 cups hibiscus leaves 3 cups sugar (or a bit more) 1 cup dark brown sugar 3 cinnamon sticks 1 pound tejocote (about 10–15 fruits) (California farmers are supposedly growing this fruit domestically now, but the easiest way to get it is frozen from the international foods section. You might find a canned version too. The tejocote is something like a sweet/sour tiny apple, native to Mexico. Perhaps more important than its taste, the tejocote provides the wonderful aroma of the Christmas punch. If you absolutely can’t find it, use plums or dried apricots) 1 foot of sugar cane cut in 3-inch sections (You can find this frozen, and it will already be cut in little sections. The joy of the cane is not the sweetness, which is amply provided for with the regular sugar, but the cane will soak up all the juices of the punch, which can then be sucked out with extra sweetness) 5 apples, cut in quarters 1 pound guava fruit (about 10 fruits) 1/2 cup of raisins 1 cup pitted prunes 1 cup of tamarinds, broken in halves 2 whole cloves Directions
In a large pot, boil the water and the hibiscus leaves to make a hibiscus tea. (With three minutes of a rolling boil, the tea should be nicely strong.) Strain and discard the leaves. Hibiscus tea is a common drink year-round in Mexico, called jamaica (pronounced ha-MY-ca), so at this stage, you might want to add a few heaping spoons of sugar and have a cup, hot or cold, as you wait for the rest of the recipe to finish!
Into the hibiscus tea, add the sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon until it just begins to boil. Add the tejocote and the sugar cane. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes or so and then add the apples. Progressively add in the guava fruit, raisins, prunes, tamarinds and the cloves. Keep the heat low and make sure the guava and the apples don’t get overcooked and disintegrate.
Once the fruit is soft (the cane will stay firm) the punch is ready whenever you want it to be. If you want this to be an alcoholic drink, add rum. (For family gatherings, adults can put a spoon of rum into their cup before adding the punch.)
Note: This punch is served hot, without straining. Tamarinds, guava fruit and tejocote all have seeds, so many people will just drink the liquid of the punch, but others enjoy eating the fruits, and simply discarding the various seeds and chunks of sugar cane.
Pears & Prosciutto
Here’s an appetizer from Aleteia blogger and mom of many, Simcha Fisher. For something a little more seasonal, she uses pears instead of cantaloupe. These are simple and take little time to prepare, which every Christmas cook needs in his or her repertoire when there are more involved dishes to concentrate on.
Ingredients Pears (2-3 pears per person) Prosciutto (amount depends on serving size)
Cut pears into wedges and wrap them with prosciutto. Place on a pretty plate or tray. If you want to get extra fancy, drizzle lightly with white balsamic vinegar. Told you it was simple!
Shutterstock/AS Food Studio Green Christmas Salad
Here’s one from Lifestyle Editor, Zoe Romanowsky. The rich and warm dishes often served at Christmas need a little balance, something fresh with a little acid, and this salad is a perfect way to do that. It’s easy to put together and lends itself to many variations.
Ingredients (Serves 4-6) 2 heads Bibb lettuce (romaine works, too, but just one if they’re large), roughly chopped fennel bulb, thinly sliced, ideally with a mandolin seeds of 1 pomegranate 1 pears, apple, or 2 oranges, peeled and sliced roasted pecans (toss with a little melted butter or olive oil and bake at low temp until just browned) For dressing:
2 tablespoons shallot, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon dried mustard 1 teaspoon water
Then gradually drizzle in, whisking as you go:
1/2–3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil salt and pepper to taste Directions
In large serving bowl, add lettuce, fennel, pomegranate seeds and fruit. Toss lightly with dressing just before serving and add the roasted pecans.
Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables
Senior writer, Kirsten Andersen, made this one up on the fly one cold winter’s night years ago and says that even people who say they hate beets end up loving this dish and asking her for the recipe.
Ingredients (Serves 6) 4 large beets, washed, scrubbed and cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks (remove any greens, but if they’re in good shape you can wash, dry and set aside to sauté in olive oil later, for an additional tasty side dish) 3 large Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into 1/6- or 1/8-inch pieces 3–4 medium-to-large parsnips, washed and sliced crosswise at 1/2-inch intervals (do not peel) 1 1/2 cups baby carrots, or full-sized carrots (optional), peeled and sliced like the parsnips (using carrots will boost the sweetness of the dish, so it’s good for kids and the extremely sweet-toothed) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 cup honey (preferably raw and unfiltered) sea salt (to taste), finely ground 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled balsamic vinegar (to taste) thyme and/or rosemary (for garnish), freshly chopped (Optional, but recommended) Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (If your oven has a “roast” or “convection roast” setting, use that at 375 degrees F.) Line a large roasting pan or deep baking dish/sheet with aluminum foil. Add beets, onions, parsnips (and carrots if you’re using them) to the mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil and honey. With fork or whisk, mix vigorously until combined. Pour mixture over veggies and toss until evenly coated. Then transfer contents to roasting pan/baking dish and spread veggies evenly across the pan and layered at the same thickness throughout. Salt veggies to taste. Place into the oven.
Note: The vegetables will take 20–60 minutes to cook, depending on your oven and the depth of the veggies. Check after 5 minutes to make sure the honey mixture isn’t burning, hardening, or turning black. If black spots are forming, stir the veggies to redistribute honey/oil mixture and then either reduce heat by 25 degrees OR loosely cover pan with aluminum foil until vegetables are mostly cooked and getting soft; then remove the foil to allow veggies to caramelize during the last few minutes.
Continue to check veggies every 5 minutes (shallow pans) to 10 minutes (deeper pans). Gently toss/stir veggies, keeping them coated with honey-oil mixture throughout cooking process. When veggies are nicely caramelized and beets can be easily penetrated by a fork, they’re ready to come out of the oven.
To prepare: Allow vegetables to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Taste and add salt as desired. Add crumbled goat cheese and lightly toss to evenly distribute. (The cheese will take on the color of the beets, giving it a lovely holiday flair.) To finish, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and fresh green herbs. Fresh thyme and rosemary complement the flavors in this dish, and add a bit of festive greenery to the vibrant fuchsia and white of the beets and goat cheese.
Roasted Cuban Pork (Pernil Asada)
Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Scalia, is giving this recipe exactly as it was given to her by a Cuban friend over 20 years ago. “I just do what I am told and it is always delicious.” Note: it requires overnight marinating.
Ingredients get a big pork shoulder (or fresh ham), 5–7 pounds peel many cloves of garlic (12 is good) have a box of salt and a six-pack of lager beer on hand Directions
Put the big pork shoulder (or ham) in a big roasting pan, skin side up. Get a big, sharp knife. (Disclaimer: be smart with the knife.) Carefully slice deep holes into the pork, using the big, sharp knife. Shove as many garlic cloves as you can into the big holes. Pour salt into the holes to fill up the chinks in the garlic. Give “a good shake of salt” over the whole roast. Pour two bottles of beer over the roast, cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
About 6 hours before you plan to serve (assuming 7-pound roast), preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Remove pork from fridge, basting it thoroughly with the salty/garlicky beer “until it’s really wet.” Discard all but perhaps a cup of the beer marinade. Cover and bake for 5–6 hours. Remove cover and bake for another 45 minutes or so, until the skin is crisp, because Grandma likes to eat the skin.
Let meat rest for 15 minutes before slicing, except it doesn’t really slice, so shred it. Serve with red beans and rice.
Shutterstock/Vizual Studio Cherries in the Snow
This is an old family recipe from Managing Editor, Zelda Caldwell. It takes some planning: It’s a two-day affair but apparently well worth it. “The pickiest eater at our Christmas Eve dinner — the kid who won’t eat anything — said it was the most delicious thing he’d ever had.”
Ingredients 6 egg whites 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the topping:
6 ounces cream cheese (softened) 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 pint whipping cream 2 cups mini-marshmallows 1 can cherry pie filling Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until frothy. Gradually add sugar and vanilla and beat at high speed. Put the meringue in a 9×13 buttered pan. Turn the oven off and let sit all night.
Do not open oven.
Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in the whipping cream and add the marshmallows. Spoon on top of cooled meringue and refrigerate for 8 hours. Spoon cherry pie filling on top and serve.