Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holiday Meals

I'm a planner. This is helpful in Germany during the holidays, since stores are closed on days when big family meals are scheduled. If you forgot to buy carrots for the carrot casserole or a baguette to go with the soup, you're out of luck. There was one year when Schweinebraten (pork roast) was on our plan for New Year's Day, and minutes after the stores closed on Silvester, I realized I'd never bought the roast! I vowed I would never let that happen again.

More on this meal shortly...

Sometime back in November I made a list of meals we'd cook during Christmas, and we assigned them days, padded in between with "leftovers." I made three shopping lists and checked them five times each: one for Mustafa, our Tuesday vegetable guy who was willing to deliver on Friday evening, one for pre-ordered meat from our butcher, and one for the supermarket, which I try to avoid like the Pest during the holidays.

Our refrigerator is not large enough to hold vegetables, milk, cream, cheese, and wine for an entire week (especially because of the quantities of cheese we I require), so we loaded up a cooler to put in the garage. Luckily it's just cold enough for that to work.

Our first unceremonious meal was Toast Hawaii - basically a glorified grilled cheese sandwich. Despite its name it's actually a German concoction of toast, ham, pineapple, and cheese. It's a nice alternative to frozen pizza and, like pizza, also produces no leftovers. This was key.

Toast Hawaii
On Saturday evening we made beef stir-fry with tenderloin and fresh vegetables. This is the only meal I make without a recipe - I just wing it and somehow it works. M did the meat to make sure it was done perfectly, and he also found some good ideas for the sauce, in which we used Wokgewürze from Ankerkraut. I'm notorious for making way too much stir-fry, but this year I judged well and we didn't have leftovers. We were still on track.

Beef stir-fry
Sunday evening was Christmas Eve. Our traditional meal is Raclette, which we think works well for a relaxing evening. Boiled potatoes, fresh mushrooms, ham, cheese...and lots of other snacks to nibble on while waiting for the cheese to melt. The meals are getting better...

Raclette - I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that this was not
too much for the two of us. The ham is sliced really thinly.
Raclette also yields no leftovers. We discovered a few years ago that Raclette cheese is good for nothing except Raclette (hence the name??). It's got a peculiar smell, which tends to permeate the contents of the fridge if not sealed well. Since there's no sense in keeping it for anything, we toss the leftovers. However, because of my careful notes from previous years, we order just the right amounts for the number of people at the table. Raclette, for us, is a perfect Heiligabend dinner.

Then things got weird.

Our plan for Christmas Day was Rehrücken mit Kräuter-Nusskruste, Rosenkohl, und Kartoffelgratin (Saddle of venison with an herb-nut crust, brussels sprouts, and potato-gratin). We had bought a frozen Rehrücken from Metro, and I had found the recipe in Lukullus, the little magazine I pick up from the local butcher each week. M was even willing to try the brussels sprouts, which I inexplicably love.

I did nearly nothing all day except read, M worked on a project he'd been saving for the holidays, I took a nap... At five o`clock we headed into the kitchen to get started on the meal, and discovered...the venison was supposed to have marinated for 3-4 hours. Oops. We scrambled, tossed around our options, and went with a different recipe for half of the meat that didn't require marinating. M also remembered an alternative recipe for brussels sprouts he had seen on our noon show, which looked much more tempting to him because it included bacon.
This recipe only uses the green outer leaves,
so we still had the rest to use for the original recipe the next day.

Although I'd had my heart set on the Kräuter-Nusskruste, this meal was delicious! We'd never made venison ourselves, but this recipe is a keeper. We had a few pieces left over, plus half of the potatoes and most of the brussels sprouts.

Our original plan for the second Day of Christmas was leftovers from Monday, but this turned out even better. We went back to the first recipe, marinated the meat all afternoon, and made the herb-nut-crust. M cooked the meat expertly yet again, and both of us liked this recipe even better than yesterday's. This is the photo you saw at the beginning of this post.

The meal we've settled on for the future is the brussels sprouts recipe from Monday, the potato-gratin, and the venison from Tuesday. Then it will be a perfect meal.

On Wednesday we really had leftovers - the rest of Tuesday's delectable venison, I finished off the sprouts, made fresh broccoli for M, thought about a salad, and we split the last two spoonfuls of potatoes. Almost nothing was wasted.

For Thursday I'd planned gefüllter Lammbraten (stuffed lamb roast), found in another Lukullus magazine. The beauty of not having guests for the holidays was that we could experiment with new recipes to potentially use in the future without worrying about something going wrong and guests going hungry and wishing they hadn't come. We usually make lamb stew, but we wanted to try something new. If it didn't work out, we could always have venison leftovers.

It turned out just fine and was very flavorful,
though less photogenic than the venison.

For Silvester we'll return to a favorite family tradition - fondue and "Dinner for One." I pick up the beef & pork tenderloin from the local butcher in the morning, M makes the fondue soup in the afternoon with roasted beef bones, soup meat, Suppengrün and one Nelke (clove), and while the soup is simmering he makes the Sahnedip. My daughter will be drooling by now...This cream dip is good for dipping vegetables in, spreading on a baguette, and dolloping on the cooked tenderloin. We used to do several dips, but now we don't bother with anything other than the Sahnedip.

This was a few years ago.
We'll only need two plates this year.
Fondue is a great meal for Silvester because it stretches out over a few hours, you're forced to eat slowly, clean-up isn't bad, and it's healthy. Healthy-ish.

We watch the British short comedy "Dinner for One" and giggle like fools every year, grumble about those who shoot off fireworks before midnight, go outside at midnight to toast with glasses of Kessler Sekt while watching the sanctioned fireworks (and M prowls around watching for burning missiles landing on our roof), and then we go to bed because we're too old to keep going.

On New Year's Day we eat the leftover soup with any remaining bits of tenderloin for lunch and have cheese and crackers for dinner.

And that was our meal plan for this holiday season. It's back to spaghetti, casserole, and frozen pizza for the first few days of the new year.

We hope you enjoyed your holiday food fest as much as we did, and we especially hope you had as little stress as we did! Even when something went wrong, we just found a way to deal with it. Easily done when you're only two people...

Lastly, we wish you a Happy New Year and a pleasant, happy, and above all peaceful 2018.


  1. All your meals sound delicious! We use left oiver raclette cheese to make melty-cheese-on-toast for lunch. It is a bit stinky, but we still enjoy it (especially with some bacon as well!) We don't often eat raclette now, except when we have visitors from the UK as we rather overloaded on it when we first got our raclette machine! I think my favourite Christmas dinner was when one of my students, who was a hunter, gave me a haunch of wild boar and the filet mignon. We had the filet for Christmas dinner and invited friends to share the marinaded haunch for Boxing Day. Delicious!!

    1. That's a good idea - melted raclette cheese on toast! We'll try that if we ever have leftover cheese. Those sound like special meals indeed (boar and filet). Yum!