MANY OF US DO OUR biggest entertaining around Christmas. It might be an open house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Perhaps you find your Christmas Day dinner list growing by leaps and bounds to include the exchange student down the street or the co-worker whose family lives far away.
Here's a Christmas Day dinner for 15 to 20 people. It would work fine as a buffet. The casseroles andsidedishes can be made ahead of time. Reheat the casseroles in the oven while the ham is "resting" after it is cooked.
Most people will try a little bit of everything, so we've kept serving sizes fairly small. Keep that in mind if you decide to subtract a dish or add one of your favorites.
Garlic, Spinach and Rice Casserole
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heads garlic, peeled and finely minced
3 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
2 10-ounce packages chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic and onions until soft. Add the rice and saute until all the ingredients are lightly browned. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice has softened and absorbed all the liquid.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the spinach in handfuls and squeeze out as much water as you can. Put the spinach in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse four times to chop finely. Or chop by hand. Stir the spinach into the rice with one-half cup cheese and the pepper. Pour the mixture into a casserole. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole.
If serving immediately, bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Casserole can be made one day ahead. To do this, cover and store at room temperature. Heat at 325 to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
-- "Thanksgiving Dinner" by Anthony Dias Blue and Kathryn K.
Blue, Harper Collins Publishers - 1990, $19.95
1 10-pound whole fully cooked ham
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup honey
6 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 fresh ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place ham on rack in roasting pan and bake for 1 3/4 hours. (Note that the ham will need to bake for a total of 15 minutes per pound or about 2 1/2 hours for a 10-pound ham.) Combine sugar, sherry, honey, mustard and black pepper; set aside. Remove ham from oven, turn heat up to 425 degrees. Pour juices from ham into shallow bowl; chill so that fat can be easily skimmed. Trim off excess fat from ham; score in three-quarter-inch diamond shapes with a sharp knife and coat generously with glaze.
When you have finished trimming and scoring ham, turn oven back down to 325 degrees and bake ham for 15 minutes.
Note: Turning the heat up and then turning it down helps seal in ham juices. Please note that the ham is not in the oven when it is turned to 425 degrees.
Remove ham from oven, glaze again and, using toothpicks, decorate with pineapple and cranberries. Return to oven for 15 minutes. Once more, remove, glaze and bake 15 minutes. Meat thermometer should read 135 to 140 degrees. Remove from oven, pour off juices and allow ham to sit 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. (Use this time to reheat the two casseroles.) Skim fat from pan juices, heat through and serve in gravy boat with sliced ham and cooked fruit.
-- "Christmas from the Heart of the Home" by Susan Branch; Little Brown and Co. - 1990, $19.95.
Sweet Potato Casserole
4 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
8 ounces cream cheeses, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup black walnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
With electric mixer, not food processor, whip all ingredients except walnuts and nutmeg, until light. Stir in walnuts and put into buttered casserole. Spread evenly and grate fresh nutmeg over the top. Bake 45 minutes until golden.
"Christmas from the Heart of the Home" by Susan Branch; Little Brown and Co. - 1990, $19.95.
Holiday Potato Salad
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon or spicy prepared mustard
1/2 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
25 small red potatoes, unpeeled, boiled, cooled completely and cut in one-half-inch chunks
5 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
10 medium radishes, diced
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickle
6 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
Make the dressing: whisk together the mayonnaise, prepared mustard and vinegar; season with fresh pepper and salt to taste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients except the dressing. Add the dressing and mix gently but thoroughly. Correct seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until serving time.
L "The Christmas Kitchen" by Lorraine Bodger; Doubleday - 1989