Christmas Dinner Ideas
December 20, 2019 6:31 AM   Subscribe

I’m planning to roast a lamb leg for Christmas dinner but I need to decide what to make as sides and appetizers. I was thinking roasted potatoes. There will be eight people and I have a very small kitchen. No known dietary allergies except one person hates salmon and one celery. Things that can be made in advance or are easy are preferred. Thanks!!

Also I would welcome any tips on entertaining in a small place and ideas for drink pairings.
posted by SpaceWarp13 to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Ive been bringing versions of this salad to holiday gatherings for a few years and am now unwelcome in several places unless ive brought it.

Over the years ive strayed/adapted it somewhat - i usually use wild arugula or a mix of that and watercress depending on whats available and looks good when im shopping. Quince paste/membrillo is available at Whole foods and most specialty shops, but i have also bought Goya brand guava paste in a can when my grocery options were less high falutin. At some point marcona almonds became the almond-of-choice so its really pretty versatile. The recipe doesnt specify but i do think it works better w an older manchego with a bit punchier flavor.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 6:41 AM on December 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Make these potatoes. They are indeed the best roasted potatoes, and are super easy. You can make them fully in advance and reheat when your guests arrive, or it also works to make them up to the boil and dress in oil stage and then do the final cooking at the last minute if you have enough oven space for that.

Sides you can prep in advance and do on the stove top will help you out a lot if you have a smaller oven (for example, these brussels sprouts are excellent and easy to make at the last minute).
posted by snaw at 6:44 AM on December 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Parboil your potatoes ahead of time, you can keep them in the fridge overnight that way, and then they'll roast up much faster and crisper and you don't have to worry about them not cooking through.

I think a snacking appetizer spread of olives with other related storebought things make a great mingling starter for lamb. Think like seeded crackers, yummy but un-challenging cheeses, little pickled vegetables like cauliflower and carrots, some lightly spiced almonds. Just pick things that you think also go with olives, and you'll get something cohesive that won't clash with lamb either.

A salad is great not only because it brings much needed freshness and crunch to what's probably a heavy meal (and season), but also because you can make it ahead of time, assemble last minute, and serve it cold. Watercress as suggested above is a fantastic green to go with. Stick to a pretty simple salad with only a few ingredients and it'll be easier to prep and serve while feeling inexplicably fancier.

My family always did peas with roasted lamb, although we don't celebrate Christmas so I don't know how Christmassy that is. The nicer way I do peas these days is I'll saute some mushrooms - start dry, they'll release liquid, once that's cooked out and they start to brown I add butter and turn the heat to low, cook minced garlic in the butter to flavor it, add the peas and heat through, salt and pepper generously. You could do this ahead as well and just quickly heat them through to serve.
posted by Mizu at 6:52 AM on December 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I think of Lamb, I think of Greek cooking. The Greeks use a small, rice-shaped pasta called orzo. It's not hard to find; it's in my small chain supermarket. You can use it in a casserole (like with cheese and cream, blanched small cut vegies if you like) and serve it hot OR in a macaroni-salad-like thing and serve it cold. (Probably not mayonnaise: olive oil and little lemon juice or wine vinegar. Again whatever cooked vegies you like.) My guests love it either way.
posted by tmdonahue at 6:52 AM on December 20, 2019

Lamb, lemon potatoes, and a giant greek salad? Big slices of cucumber, wedges of feta, lots of oregano, romaine lettuce.

In winter, when tomatoes are sad, I like to slow roast little ones (cherry or grape size) with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then throw them on everything - cooking them punches up the flavor a lot. They make a great side for lamb. They can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for several days (the olive oil makes like a confit) and served room temp.

When I was in Turkey once, a friend prepared olives this way: squeeze a lot of lemon juice over them, add several tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh or dried thyme, and maybe some red chiles (marash pepper is good for this). More salt than you think you need! They are great with warm bread.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:09 AM on December 20, 2019

I do leg of lamb in two different ways. I always plan to try something new, but these recipes are so simple and easy and much beloved by friends and family so there really isn't a choice.
1: lamb a la Boulangere. Look it up, or do like me: slice potatoes very thinly. Ideally use a mandolin or the slicer on a food processor. They don't have to be pretty, but slices end up far better than quarters, like you will often see in online recipe. Put them all in the bottom of your roasting pan mixed with knobs of butter, garlic cloves you have crushed with the flat of your knife and a lot of chopped parsley. Pour over a 1/2 liter of chicken stock. Season according to how seasoned your stock is. Put the rack on top of this. Then your leg of lamb, with garlic cloves incised into the meat, and rubbed with salt, pepper finely chopped herbs to taste, and butter. Cook this till the desired doneness, I cook to 70 degrees celcius on my thermometer.

2: twice forgotten lamb or robber lamb. This was an attempt to make the traditional "stolen" lamb of the Mediterranean before we could find hundreds of recipes on the internet. First grill the lamb on high heat till it is brown all over. Then prepare a package of either parchment paper or tin foil by covering it with tons of fresh herbs and garlic. Put the lamb in the package, make sure it is completely covered with the herbs and garlic and wrap it up. Now put it in a slow oven, and cook it as low and slow as you can. In our family it's called twice-forgotten lamb because first I forget it under the grill, and then in the slow oven. If you are a meat lover, this method gives truly great tender meat, but you don't get the potatoes from the other recipe, which are beyond delicious.

In both recipes, the meat needs to rest, so you can finish the other stuff then.

At this time of year, a salad with kale, apple, walnuts and pomengrate seeds is seasonal in the northern hemisphere, and it gives a very good contrast to the soft and fatty lamb and potatoes. Make a punchy dressing for it.

In the same spirit, maybe the south Italian salad of oranges, fennel and big green olives would be a nice, fresh starter.

What about one of those no flour chocolate cakes that need to rest for a few days for dessert? You could make that during the weekend.
posted by mumimor at 7:26 AM on December 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you are leaning more British/Australian style Sunday lamb roast then minted peas, there are a tonne of recipes out there but it only takes a few minutes to make on the stove top. Yorkshire puddings can be fun too. You can make them ahead and reheat them in the oven while the lamb rests they are delicious if you're serving it with gravy. Roast potatoes are pretty standard, but if you have a small kitchen mashed potatoes can be made ahead of time & reheated on the stove top to save oven space trying to roast enough for eight people & a lamb and dealing with big hot trays in a tiny kitchen and are just as delicious. Oh throw in a carrot dish for a bit of color, there are a tonne of variants on glazed carrots out there all of which would go great. Don't forget the mint sauce.
posted by wwax at 7:34 AM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rutabagas are an underrated starchy winter vegetable. More flavor and substance than potatoes. Mash them up with a little salt and butter, or roast. (There's a great recipe in a book I have with a bit of maple syrup, pepper, apple cider vinegar, pepper and pepper flakes--not on line but the ingredients are like 90% of the creativity.)

Note mashed you're *not* going for a smooth creamy texture like potatoes.
posted by mark k at 7:36 AM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

This recipe for Lamb Kleftiko has the potatoes in the package and it looks great for relaxed entertaining.
posted by mumimor at 7:37 AM on December 20, 2019

You'll want something colorful to accompany the lamb and potatoes, and if it's also a bit light and airy, so much the better. Enter Carrot Puff which is a quasi-souffle. I say "quasi" because it's not nearly as touchy as a genuine souffle and, frankly, one beaten egg white can only lift two pounds of carrots and other ingredients so much. But this has become a staple in my family and has led my sister to exclaim "Who could imagine people fighting over seconds of cooked carrots?" It can be made ahead and kept refrigerated until it's put into the oven. Oh, and although the recipe doesn't specify, I like the texture much better when the ingredients are put through the blender, instead of just mixed well, before folding in the beaten egg white.
posted by DrGail at 8:03 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am a sucker for puff pastry appetizers for festive occasions. There's thousands of options, but these spinach and feta puffs would carry through a Greek-ish menu, if you're going that route.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:29 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

One last proposal, haricots verts with a shallot dressing is very, very easy and goes well with roast lamb. Use frozen beans, they are fine.
posted by mumimor at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m making these mushroom packets this year. They can be in the fridge for a few days ahead of time then reheated in the oven. They look really elegant but were super easy to make.
posted by Gusaroo at 11:07 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lamb? you will have pan drippings and can make gravy. Lamb gravy is seriously delicious. You can extend it with Madeira, port, or red wine, and beef broth. I love it on rice. Or on wheat pilaf - saute onions til soft in the oil or fat of your choice, add bulgur wheat and saute a bit more, add broth and let cook 10 mins or so til done. Yorkshire puddings would be an excellent alternative. They really come out well, and feel so special.

Lamb is rich, and I would look for a hearty red wine.

Dessert? If you want to be fancy, and why not, serve a palate-cleansing sorbet or granita. I make cranberry ice - 1 can cran jelly, 1/2 can froz. limeade, 1 can (or more, to taste) water, juice of 1 lime, grate in some lime peel if you like it (I love the flavor, hate the grit). Blend. Put in the freezer in a metal dish. Mash with a fork a bunch of times as it freezes. There are recipes for champagne granita that would be festive.

If any bakery near you makes real fruit cake, it's very good. Or, get a canned plum pudding, and add brandy(rum, bourbon) to it a few days in advance. Make hard sauce. Before serving, warm up the plum pudding, and add brandy, or any high-test alcohol, put in a heat proof dish, atop a heat-proof plate*, and light it. Serve in a darkened room, to acclaim. My family's dining table was scorched and a tablecloth wrecked by excess alcohol sloshing while alight. This is how family legends happen.
posted by theora55 at 4:24 PM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

For last minute timing -
Make all the hot sides ahead of time, then let them sit on the counter at room temp while the lamb roasts, then let the lamb rest when it comes out with tented foil or offset lid on top (not sealed tight) while you heat up the sides for 15-20 minutes in the hot oven. When the sides are hot, the lamb will still be hot and everything will be ready to be served. Use this time as well to have your guests help get drinks and cold items on the table/server and do any last minute table setting. Do not rush this phase, it is okay if the food is all room temp.

Soup course - easier than it sounds -
If things will come together very smoothly, I also like to use this phase when the sides are reheating to serve a small serving of soup to set the pace of a slow meal. All the food can be sitting ready in the kitchen while you have the soup together and it slows down the pace so all your work is not eaten in 15 minutes. Soup is easy to make ahead - just throw a veg with a piece of onion and water/broth and salt in a pot until the veg is soft then blend, season, add cream until it tastes good - can be done with many veg - tomato, squash, sweet potato, celery, carrot. Sprinkle a contrasting topping like one of these - pomegranite seeds, chopped basil, sour cream, black pepper, crouton. Heat the soup in the microwave and serve in very small bowls or coffee cups.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:14 AM on December 21, 2019

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