Like most families, our Christmas traditions are a blend of heritage, family and the things you add just because YOU like them. Or sometimes, as most of my family will attest in the case of my Christmas music, ONLY because you like them. But I digress.
At my house, our Christmas tree is a blend of old and new traditions, purchased, hand and home-made ornaments. From my childhood, a tradition that my mom brought home the to the US after living in Germany in the early 60s – a mushroom and at least one bird on the tree. I still have a two of the glass ornaments from that era – one on the tree and one on display year round in my office. From my 20s, when I first started having my own tree, handmade quilled ornaments and a needlpoint Santa. Starting in the 90s, an obsession with Scottish Terriers as well as ornaments for every animal in the house, past and present.
My son and I have started a couple traditions together. We have fun hiding (and finding) the glass pickle ornament, and we buy an ornament every year that represents something we did together during the year. This year it was the Empire State Building. We also have a Christmas Village, and have selected all the buildings together, making for an eclectic village full of fire trucks and flamingos as well as the homes, shops and restaurants one would expect.
We also have a few traditions that come right from the time I spent in France during high school and college. Our nativity scene is French santons, a collection I started when I was 16, and every year I make (or sometimes buy) a galette des rois for La Fête des Rois (Epiphany, January 6th).
Christmas Dinner however is straight up British Isles (at least until dessert) – Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding and a vegetable (usually steamed brussel sprouts or green beans to add some color to the plate). For dessert, I used to make BIG desserts like cheesecake, tartes, even the occasional Buche de Noël, but in past years I either make Gingerbread or Cranberry Spice Cake. This year we had two dinners, one on Christmas itself, and one Saturday when my son returned for his holiday time with his father so I was able to make both desserts. Both were originally from Bon Appétit and are linked above.
As I was preparing the meal yesterday, I tortured friends on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the progression of the meal. Here for your pleasure is the short version.
The Cranberry Cake (recipe)
Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
A good meat thermometer is crucial to a successful roast beef. For medium with a warm very pink center , I cook it to about 140°F internal temperature. If you like it more rare, take it out sooner. It NEVER hurts to take it out sooner and check. You can always cook it more, but you can NEVER un-cook it.
The cooked roast should rest for about 30 minutes before carving, which gives you the necessary time to steam your chosen vegetable and cook the Yorkshire Pudding. My recipe for Yorkshire pudding is adapted from one that appeared in Bon Appétit (December 1988) as well, but it predates epicurious.com so I reproduce it here, with some of my twists and alterations.
Yorkshire Pudding (8 servings)
1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cups milk
3/4 cups water
3 large eggs
3/4 tsp. salt (I use Kosher or Sea salt)
about 3 TBS butter
2-4 ounces sharp cheddar, grated. (I use the more generous amount, play around with proportion that pleases you. Even with a generous amount, the finished dish does not taste cheesy at all.)
Blend first five ingredients in blender until smooth and foamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down side of container. About one minute. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 and up to 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat butter in 14×11 roasting pan in oven until butter melts. I prefer a glass or oven proof ceramic dish (versus a metal roasting pan). Whisk batter to blend and pour into pan. Immediately sprinkle with cheese.
If you use the more generous amount of cheese you will cover the top. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F. Bake until top is golden brown and edges are slightly puffed, about 20-25 more minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
If you make it when preparing a roast, melt the butter in the roasting pan during the last 15-20 minutes or so of the roast’s cooking time. When you take the roast out to rest, adjust the oven temperature to 375°F and continue as above. Your Yorkshire Pudding should finish just about the same time you finish carving the roast.